Dimetrodon video


This video is about Dimetrodon; this species also featured in the BBC TV series Walking with Monsters.

Dimetrodon were carnivores, the biggest reptiles of the early Permian; related to later primitive mammals.

See also here.

The cranial osteology of Belebey vegrandis (Parareptilia: Bolosauridae), from the Middle Permian of Russia, and its bearing on reptilian evolution: here.

4 thoughts on “Dimetrodon video

  1. Posted on Tue, Nov. 20, 2007

    Ranch still revealing ancient secrets
    For decades, paleontologists have gone to Seymour to hunt fossils that predate dinosaurs

    By BILL HANNA
    Star-Telegram Staff Writer

    On the Craddock Ranch, Robert Bakker, front, explains his philosophy of fossil searching to Seymour High School teacher Kimberly Beck, left, and students Tarrington Rivers and Jacob Richardson.

    This fossil of a Dimetrodon fang was found by Bakker’s group at the Craddock Ranch near Seymour. “Dig everything, label everything, lose nothing,” the paleontologist says.

    * Houston Museum of Natural History Digphoto

    SEYMOUR — Two hours northwest of Fort Worth, there’s a window to another time.

    Way, way back in time.

    Even before dinosaurs roamed the earth.

    In the “red beds” of Baylor County, the fossils literally litter the ground.

    In some places, it’s almost impossible to avoid stepping on them.

    It’s not a new discovery — scientists have been coming here for more than a century — but controversial paleontologist Robert T. Bakker believes there’s more to learn.

    The curator of paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science has been visiting the Craddock Ranch outside Seymour over the last 1 1/2 years to amass a collection for the museum’s new paleontology wing.

    But he’s doing more than collecting fossils. Bakker hopes to unearth a greater understanding about the early Permian Period of 290 million years ago, when creatures known as Dimetrodons were the dominant predator.

    “There is something fundamentally different about this period that goes on for about 25 million years,” Bakker said. “There’s abundant evidence of top predators and little else. It’s like flying over the Serengeti and seeing huge herds of lions, huge herds of hyenas and no plants. It’s upside-down. So the question is: What did they eat?”

    And the answer is: sharks.

    They’re what Bakker calls “weird fat sharks” with pointed spines — most likely poisonous — sticking out of their heads.

    The 6-foot-long freshwater Xenacanthus barely resembled today’s sharks.

    “Most of the shedded Dimetrodon teeth are near chewed-up amphibians of shark origin,” Bakker said. “All of this traces back to a water-based, shark-based ecology. All of the digging we’ve done confirmed this.”

    Like ‘CSI’

    Dimetrodons, which Bakker calls Texas finbacks, were of a group of animals called pelycosaurs. They were more closely related to mammals than reptiles.

    The finbacks lived 60 million years before the first dinosaur. When they ate, they shed their teeth.

    To Bakker, that means the shed teeth were like bullets, and other fossils found nearby represent victims.

    “We dig layer by layer, CSI-style,” Bakker said. “Then we look for the bullets — the shed teeth — and you can find the perp.”

    Bakker’s team has found plenty of sharks, several good Dimetrodon specimens, and several examples of Seymouria, a tetrapod (a four-legged vertebrate) that was named after the town of Seymour.

    With his long beard, trademark cowboy hat and ponytail, Bakker, 62, looks a bit like Willie Nelson, so it isn’t surprising when he says he’s a fan of the Texas icon.

    A natural-born storyteller and a bit of a ham, Bakker greets every new fossil with yelps of gleeful enthusiasm. His conversation is peppered with pop-culture references to The Simpsons and Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean.

    “To paraphrase Jack Sparrow, Dig everything, label everything, lose nothing,” Bakker said.

    He considers Dimetrodons “honorary dinosaurs” because of their finbacked look and their appearance in cheap science-fiction films like 1966’s One Million Years B.C., starring Raquel Welch.

    Nor has Bakker shied away from participating in pop culture.

    He appeared in a popular PBS documentary The Dinosaurs and was an adviser on the film Jurassic Park. And its sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, has a character based on him: the bearded, cowboy-hat-wearing Dr. Robert Burke. That character, by the way, is last seen being devoured by a Tyrannosaur.

    Paleontology provocateur

    Besides his work in Houston, Bakker is also the director of the Morrison Natural History Museum in Colorado. But among his peers, Bakker’s profile has lessened in recent years.

    Bakker’s colleagues say his CSI-style work, while important, isn’t as cutting-edge as he claims.

    Peter Dodson, a paleontologist at the University of Pennsylvania, worked with Bakker at the Morrison formation in southern Montana in the 1970s. He calls Bakker “a provocateur” who often inspires other paleontologists to either prove or disprove his theories. He said Bakker was one of the first to study the entire fossil record, known as taphonomy. But many others are doing the same work.

    “He has been doing it for 30 years and doing it well,” Dodson said. “It is now a major field of study, and many people are doing it.”

    Dodson says Bakker was at the forefront of changing perceptions about dinosaurs, asserting that some dinosaurs were warm-blooded and even had feathers. Bakker’s book, The Dinosaur Heresies: New Theories Unlocking the Mystery of the Dinosaurs and Their Extinction, sparked plenty of controversy when it was published in 1986.

    “We all bought a copy,” Dodson said. “I’m staring at a copy of it right now on my shelf. We all read it, and we all snorted and harrumphed. In a sense, he has deliberately set himself outside of the academic world. He prefers to take his case directly to the people. He is a child of the ’60s. He hasn’t changed even though the ’60s were over 40 years ago.”

    But Dodson said that while some of Bakker’s outrageous ideas caused him to “pull his hair out,” Bakker still deserves his due. These days, he would rather enjoy Bakker’s company than be riled up by one of Bakker’s pronouncements.

    “I think he was successful in encouraging fresh ways to look at dinosaurs,” Dodson said. “We will never return to the pre-Bakkerian view of dinosaurs as slow-moving, un-agile, un-athletic.”

    Another colleague, Anna Kay Behrensmeyer, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, concurred that Bakker has largely stepped back from the world of academia, making it hard to assess his current work.

    “If he’s out there taking everything off the outcropping, it’s hard to know what his end goal is,” said Behrensmeyer, who also worked with Bakker in the 1970s. “He hasn’t kept up with the publishing, so it’s hard to know what type of information he has accumulated.”

    Behrensmeyer said Bakker takes tremendous responsibility in moving all of the material to Houston. She prefers to catalog sites, leaving much of the material in place, she said.

    “He’s an iconoclast, someone who feels it more important to be out there on the outcropping learning things,” Behrensmeyer said. “It’s more important to him to be providing inspiration rather than pursuing scientific publications. We all wish he had done more publishing, but he’s not pursuing a classic academic route. He doesn’t march to the same orders as a lot of us who have to do more tedious work of putting things on paper and getting them into print.”

    Classroom in the field

    Bakker’s enthusiasm for teaching is evident when two Seymour High School students arrive at the dig. He quickly joins them and their teacher, Seymour native Kimberly Beck.

    Bakker has inspired Beck to spend some of her weekends fossil hunting on her parents’ nearby ranch.

    “I’m hooked; I love it,” said Beck, who teaches science in the classroom where her grandfather once taught. “Every chance I get, I’m telling everybody in town about what’s going on out here.”

    The Craddock Ranch’s owner, Bill Whitley, said Bakker’s entertaining ways have also caught the attention of his family.

    “He’s colorful,” Whitley said. “He was out there recently singing Springtime for Hitler from The Producers while poking around the ground. It doesn’t take too long to realize he’s very bright and very interesting and loves teaching this stuff. I think he has been very patient with my grown daughter — he’s definitely infected her — talking about why this is this way and this is that way. He seems to enjoy people who are interested and take the time to learn.”

    Whitley has watched paleontologists come and go at the 4,400-acre ranch since he was a child. The ranch has been in the family since his great-grandfather established it in 1893.

    In a time when many landowners around the world are trying to profit from fossils on their property, the Whitley family has always let legitimate scientists collect what they want.

    “People have been taking stuff out of there for close to 100 years, if not longer,” said Whitley, who lives in Dallas. “And these guys are still finding some significant pieces. On the one hand there’s some ‘Gee whiz, I hate to see it go.’ But if we don’t let them take it and protect it, it’s all going to erode away. These fossils will wash down the hillside, and they’ll be lost to everybody.”

    BILL HANNA, 817-390-7698
    billhanna@star-telegram.com

    http://www.star-telegram.com/226/story/312536.html

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  2. Pingback: Dimetrodon ancient reptile, new discoveries | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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