Happy Friday! Today on Museum Quick Bites we’re diving with diplocaulus, a prehistoric creature on display at the Michigan State University Science & Culture Museum. Nicknamed boomerang head, for its uniquely shaped skull, diplocaulus is a rare delight. Join me for a quick look-see.
Diplocaulus, Michigan State University Science & Culture Museum (photo by cjverb 2021)
Diplocaulus (meaning double cap) is a salamander-like amphibian that lived during the Permian Period (~299-252 million years ago). Approximately three feet long, diplocaulus had a short, squat body with a stubby tail and legs. These little meat eaters lived in freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams, and dined on insects, fish and smaller amphibians.
Diplocaulus (outline of boomerang-shaped skull), MSU Science & Culture Museum (photo by cjverb 2021)
Fun Froggy Fact: Amphibians, like frogs, toads and salamanders, lay their shell-less eggs in water or wet areas, and have thin skin that must stay moist in order for them to breathe. Reptiles, like turtles, lizards, snakes, crocodiles, and alligators have tough, dry, scaly skin and lay their hard-shelled eggs on land.
Photo by Frank Winkler, Pixabay
Scientists theorize diplocaulus’ boomerang-shaped head acted like a hydrofoil, helping diplocaulus navigate (up and down) through the water. Its extraordinary skull also protected it from predators because a boomerang-shaped head was difficult to swallow.
Left: Diplocaulus Skeleton & Model, Denver Natural History Museum, photo by Camelops, Wikimedia Commons
Right: Diplocaulus Skull, Whiteside Museum of Natural History, photo by Fanboyphilosopher, Wikimedia Commons
Fun Boomerang Head Fact: The largest diplocaulus skull discovered thus far, spanned 17 inches.
Diplocaulus Skull, American Museum of Natural History, photo by Smokeybjb, Wikimedia Commons
The first diplocaulus fossil was discovered in 1877 by superstar paleontologist, Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1879). Diplocaulus fossils are rare, however a treasure trove was discovered in the Craddock Bone Bed in Baylor County, Texas. Click on this LiveScience link to learn more about how a family of diplocauluses met their doom.
Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897) by Frederick Gutekunst, Wikimedia Commons
Diplocaulus was wiped out at the end of the Permian Period during The Great Dying, the largest mass extinction event to occur on earth. Approximately 70% of animals on land and 95% of marine life were wiped out by massive climate change that was brought on by a series of volcanic events that pumped carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If you’d like to learn more about this time in Earth’s history, click on this Permian Period link, courtesy of Britannica.
That wraps up our brief look at boomerang head. I’ll be back next week with more Museum Quick Bites. Until then, be safe, be kind, and take care 🙂
Cover photo by A. Savin, courtesy of Pixabay.
Britannica: Permian Period
iDigBio: MSU Mammalogy, Ornithology & Vertebrate Paleontology Collections-Diplocaulus
LiveScience: Finned Monster Chomped Heads Off Ancient Amphibians (2013)
Michigan State University Science & Culture Museum
Musée d’Histoire Naturelle et Vivarium de Tournai: Diplocaulus
Wikimedia Commons: Diplocaulus
Wikimedia Commons: Diplocaulus carnegii