Therapsida mammal-like reptiles from the mid- to late Permian, Karoo Formation of South Africa, Russia, Scotland, Asia and Americas.
Dicynodontia is an extinct clade of anomodonts, an extinct type of non-mammalian therapsid. Dicynodonts were herbivores that typically bore a pair of tusks, hence their name, which means 'two dog tooth'. Members of the group possessed a horny, typically toothless beak, unique amongst all synapsids. Dicynodonts first appeared in Southern Pangaea during the mid-Permian, ca. 270–260 million years ago, and became globally distributed and the dominant herbivorous animals in the Late Permian, ca. 260–252 Mya. They were devastated by the end-Permian Extinction that wiped out most other therapsids ca. 252 Mya. They rebounded during the Triassic but died out towards the end of that period. They were the most successful and diverse of the non-mammalian therapsids, with over 70 genera known, varying from rat-sized burrowers to elephant-sized browsers.
The dicynodont skull is highly specialised, light but strong, with the synapsid temporal openings at the rear of the skull greatly enlarged to accommodate larger jaw muscles. The front of the skull and the lower jaw are generally narrow and, in all but a number of primitive forms, toothless. Instead, the front of the mouth is equipped with a horny beak, as in turtles and ceratopsian dinosaurs. Food was processed by the retraction of the lower jaw when the mouth closed, producing a powerful shearing action, which would have enabled dicynodonts to cope with tough plant material. Dicynodonts typically had a pair of enlarged maxillary caniniform teeth, analogous to the tusks present in some living mammals. In the earliest genera, they were merely enlarged teeth, but in later forms they independently evolved into ever-growing teeth like mammal tusks multiple times. In some dicynodonts, the presence of tusks has been suggested to be sexually dimorphic. Some dicynodonts such as Stahleckeria lacked true tusks and instead bore tusk-like extensions on the side of the beak.
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