260 million years ago, evolution took a morbid turn. For the first time in earths history, our world was introduced to a terrestrial predator with a devastating set of weapons! Its name is Inostrancevia. A genus of carnivorous therapsids, containing the largest members of the family Gorgonopsid characterized by long, saber-tooth-like canines. It inhabited what is now Northern Russia and was unmatched by any other predator at the time. Growing up to 12 feet long with a 2 foot long skull with nightmare size teeth.
Inostrancivia was a mammal like reptile or Synapsids. Meaning a group of animals that includes mammals and every animal more closely related to mammals. Synapsids were the largest terrestrial vertebrates in the Permian period, 299 to 251 million years ago. The Gorgons were the largest predators and most terrifying of this group.
There most definitive characteristic was their 6.5 inch long canine saber-teeth. This was an animal that was more than capable of chasing down its prey and like a modern day lion or the famous Saber-tooth tiger, was able to bury these massive teeth into the neck of an animal and kill it ether by asphyxiation for by massive blood loss.
Imagine an animal the size of a bear with T-Rex size teeth galloping toward you with one thing in mind. Its next meal! Its skull was thick and made to withstand the force of teeth against thick scaled skin and bone. The only creature alive at the time that could have challenged this killer would have been another Inostrancevia. Studies of the animals jaws have shown many cases of inflicted injury but after closer analysis, they discovered that the gouges on the skulls and bones were made by other Gorgons.
The rock surrounding these skeletons suggested that the land at the time was a desert oasis. Most of the bones we have were most likely able to fossilize because of sand storms. Quickly consuming the animals and instantly burying them deep below the sand.
Thankfully non of these animals were able to survive the Permian extinction 252 million years ago. This extinction killed off 90% of all life on earth and is the most devastating extinction event the world has ever seen. But I will describe the Permian extinction in another post. For now lets all just be happy that this killer is not around today. We would be easy pickings.
Take a second to watch this short video on what scientists think the gorgons might have looked like and how they hunted.