The animal above might strike most people as something akin to a dinosaur. Paleontologists, however, think that it was most likely related to mammals.
This particular animal, known as Gorgonops, belonged to a group of similar extinct creatures known as gorgonopsians. Gorgonopsians have been found in African and Asian rocks estimated to be 272 to 252 million years old .
Though the reconstruction above suggests that these animals had fur, there is currently no evidence that they really did. However, they have several mammal-like features in their skulls, including teeth that differ in shape and structure (heterodonty). If you look at a typical lizard or crocodile, you’ll notice that their teeth look almost identical. Gorgonopsians and mammals, by contrast, have distinctly different teeth, including incisors, canines, premolars and molars.
These creatures ranged in size from a dog to a bear, and their skull anatomy suggests that they were carnivorous. Below is one of the largest species, known as Inostrancevia.
Gorgonopsians disappeared at the end of the Permian period some 252 million years, in what paleontologists interpret as a mass extinction. They vanished at the same time as organisms as diverse as hyoliths, glossopterids, captorhinids and sea scorpions, likely due to massive climate change.
Questions for Creationists
Where did the gorgonopsians go? If they lived across Asia and Africa, why have we never encountered one in the wild? Did Noah not have any room for them on his ark? Is it just a coincidence that they disappear in the same rocks as hyoliths, glossopterids, captorhinids and sea scorpions?