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One group of therapsids are the dicynodonts. Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden, together with colleagues in Poland, have discovered fossils from a new genus of gigantic dicynodont.
For the first time, researchers in the research programme Evolution and Development at Uppsala University in collaboration with researchers at the Polish Academy of Sciences (Warsaw), have discovered fossils from a new species of dicynodont in the Polish village of Lisowice.
One group of therapsids is called dicynodonts. All species of dicynodonts were herbivores (plant eaters) and their sizes ranged from small burrowers to large browsers.
Similar fossils from so-called dicynodonts have been found elsewhere, but they were dated to be from an earlier period, before a series of natural disasters wiped out most species on Earth.
The discovery of giant dicynodonts living at the same time as sauropods -- a branch of the dinosaur family that later produced the iconic long-necked diplodocus -- suggests environmental factors in the late Triassic period may have driven the evolution of gigantism, the researchers said.
"Large dicynodonts have been known before in both the Permian and the Triassic, but never at this scale," he said.
On the anatomy of a new dicynodont genus with evidence of the position of the tympanum.
The functional anatomy of a Permian dicynodont. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B291:243-322.
The study, published in the journal Science, said the Lisowicia would have been 40 percent larger than any previously identified dicynodont.
All mammals, including humans, are descended from dicynodonts, despite their reptilian origins.
"The late Triassic Period wasn't just the time of the rise of dinosaurs, it was also the time when the last dicynodonts decided to compete with dinosaurs.
Dicynodonts blended reptilian and mammalian traits.
By noting that the southern beech tree, certain mammal-like reptiles known as Dicynodonts and other Australian flora and fauna are found only on Gondwana continents, scientists have determined that these continents were once linked .