Friday, January 28, 2011

Creature Feature: Gorgonopsids.

Oh, furries. Why is it that your fursonas, despite being so "varied," tend to loop back to felids, canids, raptors and dragons? If you really want to be intimidating and predatory, go for something so weird, yet close enough to a modern carnivore that it creates an 'Uncanny Valley' effect.

Uncanny Valley'd!

Like this thing. What the hell is this thing?

That menacing-looking beast is a gorgonopsid (family Gorgonopsidae). Like Dimetrodon, it was not a dinosaur, but a mammal-like reptile called a synapsid. Synapsids were the way, way ancient ancestors of every mammal known today. Gorgonopsids were one family of many mammal-like reptiles present throughout ancient history. Every single one of them looked like something out of a horror flick.

Even though the name "gorgonopsid" literally means "gorgon-eyed," with jaws like that, who cares about the eyes? Gorgons also had huge tusks (which is not usually acknowledged in most modern media); gorgonopsids have saber-teeth and long, sturdy jaws to work with them. Their sizes ranged from being dog-sized carnivores to bear-sized behemoths (e.g. Inostrancevia); regardless of how big they were, those jaws would have torn a nice chunk out of their prey. As stated in my Dimetrodon entry, differentiated teeth like this are usually a sign that a given skull is at least a proto-mammal.

Gorgonopsids were wiped out in the Permian-Triassic extinction. In case you do not know your history of the world, the Triassic period was the first chunk of the Mesozoic, featuring relatively small dinosaurs. Gorgonopsids went extinct before that; despite being in the 'prehistoric animal' category, they never met a dinosaur. These creatures never got to compete with the big dinosaurs that most people know and love (or even the little ones). 

Synapsids are often overlooked in the modern media, but gorgonopsids got a fair amount of screentime on the British television show Primeval. It looks like a neat show, to say the least. Past and future superpredators entering the present day and causing damage? Count us in.

One of these. Black with bright purple stripes. Nobody knows what skin covering this creature had, so feel free to go nuts with fur, skin, and scales. GOGOGO, furry community!

Next time: A bat? Sure. Why not?

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