Lystrosaurus, skull, a dicynodont
Lystrosaurus, skull, a dicynodont
Lystrosaurus, skull, a dicynodont
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Lystrosaurus, skull, a dicynodont

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Lystrosaurus (meaning "shovel lizard", was a genus of Late Permian and Early Triassic Period dicynodont therapsids, which lived around 250 million years ago in what is now Antarctica, India, and South Africa. Four to six species are currently recognized, although from the 1930s to 1970s the number of species was thought to be much higher.

Being a dicynodont, Lystrosaurus had only two teeth, a pair of tusk-like canines, and is thought to have had a horny beak that was used for biting off pieces of vegetation. Lystrosaurus was a heavily-built, herbivorous animal, approximately the size of a pig. The structure of its shoulders and hip joints suggest that Lystrosaurus moved with a semi-sprawling gait. The forelimbs were even more robust than the hindlimbs, and the animal is thought to have been a powerful digger that nested in burrows.

Lystrosaurus was by far the most common terrestrial vertebrate of the Early Triassic, accounting for as many as 95% of the total individuals in some fossil beds.

This specimen replica is from the Triassic, Beaufort Series, Lystrosaurus Zone, South Africa.
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