Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Gorgonopsids season part 1: Rubidgeans

Gorgonopsids may be familiar if you have watched Primeval, featuring a huge 20ft giant, but this was as large as they got, most were the size of an average Labrador.

Gorgonopsids were still nasty predators. These animals were reptiles, closely related to mammals, possessing enormous canines. One species called Rubidgea had canines longer than those of Tyrannosaurus!

The Rubidgeans were the most deadly Gorgonopsids, with huge buttressed skulls and deep lower jaws. There is a pair of broad ventral flanges either side of the skull to support powerful muscles that would have kept the jaw stable when tackling large prey.

Broomicephalus, a member of the same family has a head wider than its length. This gave it a very cat like appearance. The broadness of the skull creates a stable structure when the jaw is open, allowing it to tackle prey larger than itself with great ease.

The sabre teeth are especially thin, suggesting Broomicephalus used the teeth to slash through its preys flesh, causing deep wounds.

The skull suggests a very inertial bite force, by which the jaw was pulled closed. As its angle changes relative to the pterygoideus muscles the jaw is pulled forewords, meaning that inertia is the only thing closing the jaw. This creates a fast and short bite that is not very firm in its grip, used to quickly slash the prey and wound it.

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