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Temporal range: 299–251 Ma Early to Late Permian
Diplocaulus (meaning "double caul") is an extinct genus of lepospondyl amphibians from the Permian period of North America. It is one of the largest lepospondyls, with a distinctive boomerang-shaped skull. Remains attributed to Diplocaulus have been found from the Late Permian of Morocco and represent the youngest known occurrence of a lepospondyl.
Diplocaulus had a stocky, salamander-like body, but was relatively large, reaching up to 1 m (3.3 ft) in length. Its most distinctive features were the long protrusions on the sides of its skull, giving the head a boomerang shape. Judging from its weak limbs and relatively short tail, it is presumed to have swum with an up-and-down movement of its body, similar to modern whales and dolphins. The wide head could have acted like a fin, helping the creature glide through the water. Another possibility is that the shape was defensive, since even a large predator would have a hard time trying to swallow a creature with such a wide head.
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A trio of three juvenile Diplocaulus in a burrow of eight were found to have been partially eaten by the sail-backed synapsid Dimetrodon, which likely unearthed the amphibians during a drought. One of the three was killed with a bite to the head, taking part of its skull and portions of the brain, a fatal injury that the animal could not defend against.
Diplocaulus on display
- The fossilized skeleton of a Diplocaulus is on display at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor. The display presents art of the Diplocaulus with the controversial skin extending from the tips of the head to the tail.
- The fossilized skeleton of a Diplocaulus is on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Houston.
Skull of Diplocaulus magnicornis at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin
Life reconstruction of Diplocaulus with mimetic dorsal skin
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- Cruickshank, A. R. I.; Skews, B. W. (1980). "The Functional Significance of Nectridean Tabular Horns (Amphibia: Lepospondyli)". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 209 (1177): 513–537. doi:10.1098/rspb.1980.0110.
- Palmer, D., ed. (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals. London: Marshall Editions. p. 55. ISBN 1-84028-152-9.
- Cf.