Death and Birth of a New World
Dinosaurs did not come to existence as straightforward as a flash. Dinosaur eggs did not just randomly appear, but through years of evolution from predecessor creatures, and in this case, the Sauropsids.
In the time just preceding the age of the dinosaurs, was the Permian Period which succeeded the Carboniferous Period. The Permian Period was the final phase of the Paleozoic Era, which lasted between 299 million years to 251 million years ago, where the lands which the creatures of the time roamed was the Pangea, a ‘Super Continent’. This is was were all the lands were fused into one by multiple continents. Consider the following biggest countries in the world right now; Russia, Canada and China. Imagine all three of them combined together along with another 191 countries, the sheer geographical size of it all! Within these lands teemed with many creatures of old, consisting of two important animal groups: the Sauropsids as previously mentioned and the Synapsids. Sauropsids were lizard like creatures thought to be the primeval ancestors of reptiles and dinosaurs. Despite their significance upon the future, the beasts which dominated the land were the Synapsids, the species which were believed to be a lineage that led to the existence of mammals.
Perhaps the most well-known was the Dimetrodon (part of a group belonging to Synapsids known as Pelycosaurs), the apex predator that hunted fish, reptiles and amphibians. Famed for its neural spine sail produced by the elongated spines extended from the vertebrae, it had a single temporal opening in its skull, determining its Synapsid nature contrasting from the two temporal openings in skulls of Sauropsids. The Dimetrodon species’ size ranged from 4.6 metres to 0.6 metres in length and had 2 different measures of teeth, directly translated from its name. It had 1 or 2 sets of large canine teeth at the Maxilla, which was near the front of the jaws and behind it were smaller sets of serrated teeth. Its impressive sail, was used for thermoregulation, helping them adjust their internal temperature in accordance to the weather or temperature of the surrounding environment. Some theorize that the sails were also used as features to impress members of the opposite sex for mates, like Peacocks famously do. Except these were large, four legged beasts with frighteningly serrated teeth, and it would’ve been advised if we existed then to not mess with them as some people humorously but idiotically do with peacocks.
Over time, the Pelycosaurs died out being replaced by Therapsids. These were much more similar to mammals today, with quadruple legs underneath their body. Fossils have indicated that some skulls had whiskers, meaning that several species had fur and their jaws and bite power were greater than that of the Pelycosaurs. The Cynodont (dog-toothed) genus hunted in packs, and are believed to be the ancestors of all modern animals we see today.
Compared to the Carboniferous Period, it was less vegetated, where its swamp forests dried out. The decline of plants that depended on spores gave way to the first seeded plants, the Gymnosperms, which are essentially the conifers we see today. The waters still teemed with life such as Sharks and Spiny fish, but not much has been completely uncovered by experts on the Oceans in this period.
However, this period suffered a gargantuan extinction of life. Known as ‘The Great Dying’, this ominous title was not given lightly, as approximately 95% of marine life was wiped out, along with 70% of land animals. Plant life was also grievously impacted on, and the cause is still yet to be confirmed though there were assumptions of incredible volcanic events through the few evidence we have. This shows just how much mystery there still is on our Earth’s past and many unknowns still cloud palaeontologists.
Though most life died out, the Sauropsids along with the Synapsids survived along with the Gymnosperms and that species, weathered by time, gradually evolved to what we now know as Dinosaurs.