Dimetrodon is probably the best-known of the
mammal-like reptiles. It was a predator that
lived in the Permian period between about
280 million and 265 million years ago.
Dimetrodon is believed to have been the largest predator
in its habitat. Adults were up to 11 feet (3.5 meters)
in length. It had four sprawling legs, and a large
tail, and probably walked in a similar manner to lizards.
It most noteable feature however is the large sail
on its back.
Dimetrodon's sail was filled with blood vessels and
is believed to have mainly served to help in
regulating body temperature. By facing the sail
towards the sun, Dimetrodon could heat itself
up quickly, and it could also use the sail to cool itself
if it became too hot. Additionally, the sail
may have served a number of secondary purposes such
as attracting mates, or helping to deter other
predators (by making the animal appear larger
than it was).
The name Dimetrodon means "two measures of teeth",
and was chosen in 1878 by
Edward D. Cope.
This name reflects the fact that the animal's skull contains two
different types of teeth (unlike reptiles which normally only
contain a single type of teeth) - namely
sharp canine teeth, and shearing teeth.
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