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Dinosaur of the Karoo

By Samara on July 28, 2016

Aulacephalodon (All-a-KEF-a-LOW-don) was a relatively large plant-eating (herbivorous) dicynodont that lived during the late Permian 254 million years ago. Like most other dicynodonts, Aulacephalodon had a beak for biting, grinding and cutting plants. The animals also had a pair of prominent tusks, possibly for digging, sexual display and defence. The larger, and therefore older specimens have distinctive bony knobs on the snout above the nasal openings. This feature is not seen in smaller juvenile skulls. These “nasal bosses” were either only developed in older animals, or they formed to mark either the male or female of the species.

Note the prominent “hole” in the top of the skull – a structure known as the pineal foramen, common to all therapsids (mammal-like reptiles). This hole in the skull housed part of a sense organ which was capable of sensing light and may have regulated the day/night cycle of these animals. Fossil footprints tell us that Aulacephalodon lived in family groups. The model reconstruction is based on the numerous fossil skulls and skeletal remains of Aulacephaoldon that have been found in the Cistecephalus Biozone. The stance of the model is based on the footprints preserved on an ancient palaeosurface (mudflat) that has been exposed in the “Asante Sana” valley, some 10km east of Samara in the Graaff-Reinet district. Information provided by Dr Billy de Kelerck.

 

Maquette of the Aulacephalodon which is a dinosaur found in this area of the Karoo
Maquette of the Aulacephalodon which is a dinosaur found in this area of the Karoo

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