Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Creature Feature: Diplocaulus.

"Dinosaur" has been somewhat of a "generic extinct animal" category since I was in preschool. Packages containing dinosaurs have also contained cavemen, mammoths, and saber-toothed tigers. We can forgive Dimetrodon; at least it looks kind of like Spinosaurus. Then we have this: \

This strange, boomerang-headed creature is called Diplocaulus. This thing was around in the Permian, which means that, like Dimetrodon, it was properly around before the dinosaurs. It was a giant, meter-long amphibian similar to a salamander- not a lizard at all! Most Diplocaulus fossils have been found inthe good ol' U.S. of A., particularly Texas. It probably ate insects, but we don't have a time machine to prove it.

Diplocaulus has remained a mainstay of "here, have some random prehistoric stuff" packages for one simple reason: That head. Diplocaulus had a distinctive, arrow-shaped skull. Possible reasons for this skull include burrowing, making it hard to swallow, and a hydrodynamic feature. Some museums draw Diplocaulus with a flap of skin running from its arrowhead to its tail, allowing it to undulate through its watery domain. Nobody really knows what Diplocaulus's head was for, but it's marketable as hell.

Now in origami for your enjoyment.

Alas, if you want a Diplocaulus or something similar as a pet, I cannot help you. The Diplocaulus has no living relatives.  Nothing has evolved a head quite like Diplocaulus, which adds more mystery to the beast. It's still sad that no lizard has evolved headgear this cool.

Next time you find a random box of "dinosaurs," take a good look. Dimetrodon should not be there. Wooly mammoths should not be there. Technically, pterodactyls shouldn't be there (they're pterosaurs, not dinosaurs). Diplocaudus definitely shouldn't be there, even if it does look neat. Now you know what it's called and can brag about it to fellow nerds. :)

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