Meet the Monsters that Ruled Before Dinosaurs

02 December 2013

Artist impression of Gorgonopsians.

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Have you ever wondered what kind of creatures roamed the earth before our beloved dinosaurs? We all know Tyrannosaurus Rex and his friends, but what bizarre monsters were around before them?

This summer, the South Australian Museum brings you an incredible exhibition that brings the Permian era to life. Life Before Dinosaurs: The Permian Monsters takes us back 290 million years to the time when the earth had just one ocean and one large continent – Pangaea – and strange sharks, giant insects and reptiles inhabited the world. The Permian period ended after 40 million years with the largest extinction ever known on the planet, wiping out 90% of all species.

Come and meet the curious characters of the Permian, including the top predator of the time: the giant sabre-toothed gorgonopsid ‘Inostrancevia’, and find out what killed most of them to make way for Earth’s next rulers, the dinosaurs.

This unique exhibition brings the past back to life with fossilised skeletons and full life-size models of the animals, blending art and science with a collection of new artwork from award winning palaeoartist Julius Csotonyi. See these skeletons and models up close, and dig and identify fossils in the interactive dig pits throughout the gallery!

Acting South Australian Museum Director Professor Andrew Lowe says, “From 14 December, the South Australian Museum will introduce you to a little-known but very important period in the planet’s history. The Permian included extraordinary lifeforms that are biological wonders in the context of evolution, and ended in one of the most significant climate change events we know of.

Visitors of all ages will enjoy the opportunity to get up close and marvel at the plants and animals of this period in our special gallery and can become palaeontologists for a day as they dig up the fossils!” 


Facts: The Permian Era

During the Permian the Earth’s land masses were joined in one supercontinent known as Pangaea. The Permian began at the end of an ice age; the Earth was cooler than present day. As time passed, the icecaps melted and the Earth slowly warmed up, becoming a lush green planet, where both animal and plant life thrived.

Plant life consisted of ferns, conifers and small shrubs. Animals included fish, arthropods, amphibians and reptiles. During the Permian reptiles developed mammal-like characteristics, but the first true mammals would not appear until the next geological period, the Triassic.

The Permian ended 250 million years ago with the start of the Triassic period. The end of the era was witness to the largest mass extinction in the history of Earth: over 90% of all plant and animal life were wiped out. By the end of the Permian, the Earth had become a biological desert.

The Permian period was the end of an era called the Palaeozoic, meaning “ancient life”. During the Palaeozoic, life in the sea evolved into many strange creatures, from giant sea scorpions to bizarre looking sharks. There were also many invertebrate life forms such as sponges, ammonites, nautiloids, crinoids, gastropods, brachiopods and trilobites. Corals also formed in the Palaeozoic; after their near-extinction at the end of the Devonian period, they began to regenerate during the Permian period producing huge reefs. During the Permian, Earth’s single land mass Pangaea was surrounded by an enormous ocean called Panthalassa. Panthalassa teemed with life, from tiny single-celled organisms to marine arthropods and large fish.

Meet some of the Permians!

Dinogorgan collectible card.Edaphosaurus collectible card.

Sclerocephalus collectible card.Eryops collectible card.