Monday, 28 December 2009

Inostrancevia; king of the Gorgons!

Gorgonopsid season has not started with a basic intro to the Gorgons, therefore here is a quick bacground paragraph:
Well these animals were belonging to a group of reptiles called Therapsids, quite close tho the ancestry of mammals. Therefore Gorgons had no scales and possibly possessed whiskers to sense prey. These animals probably had a degree of warm bloodedness which I will go into in a later post.

The largest Gorgonopsid was Inostrancevia from Russia, terrorizing the planet 251 million years ago in the late Permian period. Primeval; an ITV science fiction TV series is misleading and inaccurate, portraying Gorgonopsids as huge and scaly elephant sized beasts 6 meters long. There is little evidence to suggest that these animals got this big.

Inostrancevia should not however be underestimated. At 4.3 meters this animal was formidable, perfectly capable of killing humans if it got the chance.

The stance of these animals is also subject to debate. In Primeval the Gorgonopsid stands with its legs directly under the body like modern mammals. This certainly appears more convincing than the sprawling posture some reconstructions have shown. The museum of Melbourne has reconstructed Inostrancevia as a high sprawler, able to walk with the legs held at a 45 degree angle when running, however adopting a lizard like stance of 90 degrees when walking normally. The leg joints, similar to those of a modern crocodile, suggest the high sprawling means of locomotion, implying that these animals were not as fast as the TV shows may say, but the prey of the Gorgons was even slower.

Above; a Gorgon attacks a Parieasaur.

Huge turtle relatives called Parieasaurs roamed the Permian period. These armoured reptiles were clearly unable to run with tiny back legs that stuck out to the side. It was the armour that presented a problem for the Gorgons.

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