The walking Dead. The monstrous “gorgons” survived the mass extinction, but this did not save them
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Almost 90% of all living creatures on Earth died out about 252 million years ago, but one animal, contrary to the prevailing seems to have survived.
It is now known that the Permian Mass Extinction, which occurred approximately 252 million years ago, survived only 10% of the Earth's animals. Scientists believed that such predators as gorgonops also became extinct at the end of the Permian period. But a new study shows that some of these “gorgons” did survive into the Triassic period. But their life was not very long, and therefore they turned into a “walking dead treasure”, writes Live Science.
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American scientists have conducted a new analysis of the remains of saber-toothed predators that lived at the end of the Permian period. Gorgonops fossils have been discovered in South Africa, and a new study shows these ancient animals didn't go extinct with everyone else during the Permian Mass Extinction. But the prospects for their continued existence were not at all rosy.
Scientists have called these predators “the walking dead hoard” (a clade is a group of living organisms that contains a common ancestor and all direct descendants). This term is used by paleontologists to refer to groups of animals that survived extinction, but it affected their development so much that in the future these animals will still disappear after some time.
According to Christian Kammerer of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, such animals could survive for millions of years after the mass extinction, but they don't reach a significant distribution, and therefore they can be considered a “dead” species.
Gorgonops get their name in honor of the Gorgons from ancient Greek myths, who could turn a person into stone with their eyes. Scientists believe that they lived in the Triassic period (251.9 – 201.2 million years ago) long before the advent of dinosaurs.
In particular, their remains indicate that they lived on Earth between 240 and 230 million years ago. But some paleontologists were sure that this was not the case and the fossils were simply incorrectly analyzed and possibly belonged to completely different animals. But a new study shows that fossils from South Africa do indeed belong to these ancient predators, and they did live in the Triassic period.
According to scientists, the fossils most likely belong to Cyonosaurus, a genus of ancient predators that belongs to the Gorgonops clade. Scientists believe that these animals survived the mass extinction due to their small size, small numbers and feeding habits.
Cionosaurus resembled a modern fox in size, had a narrow and long muzzle, protruding elongated incisors, like those of saber-toothed tigers and a jaw full of sharp teeth. This predator was one of the smallest known Gorgonops.
Such small predators can better adapt to environmental changes than larger species, Kammerer says. Scientists believe that Gorgonops survived until the early part of the Triassic period.
“But in any case, there were very few of them, and they belonged to only one genus, and therefore these animals can still be considered a victim of mass extinction,” Kammerer says.
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