Dimetrodon is an extinct Genus of synapsid from the Permian Period. There are 20 known species. They are not true reptiles as they have one temporal fenestrae (hole) behind each eye socket. Reptiles have two. Dimetrodon is more closely related to mammals than reptiles. Dimetrodon was likely the apex predator of the Permian.
The dimetrodon lived during the Permian period, first appearing in the fossil record 280 million years ago and going extinct 245 million years ago.
Dimetrodon was a large, sail backed creature with a crocodile like body and small head. The sail was long spines growing from the vertebrae, covered with skin. There is debate over what the sail was used for. It has been commonly held that the sail was used to regulate body temperature, absorbing and radiating heat as needed. It has also been proposed that the sail was used as a mating display to attract mates. In addition to its sail, dimetrodon had a small, stout head, a long tubular body and splayed stance (Legs out to the side of its body). Recently, scientists have begun to challenge this lumbering stance. Trackways in New Mexico seem to show Dimetrodon stood taller with its legs more under its body rather than out to the side like an alligator.
Despite its inclusion in movies and model kits with dinosaurs, Dimetrodon was not a dinosaur. In Fact, Dimetrodon is more closely related to mammals than dinosaurs. Dinosaurs and most reptiles are diapsids (two fenestrae one each side of the head) dimetrodon was a synapsid (one fenestra). The other reason Dimetrodon was not a dinosaur is time. Dimetrodon lived almost as long before the dinosaurs (60 million years) as we live after them (65 million years).
Almost all Dimetrodon fossils have come from the Southwest United States. Most of these come from and area along the Texas Oklahoma border called the Red Beds. all commercially available dimetrodon fossils still come from this area. In recent decades Dimetrodon has been found in the Four Corners of Utah and Arizona, Ohio and a new species was found in New Mexico. A find in the Thuringian Forest of Germany is the only non North American Dimetrodon.
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