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Eryops

[ehr' E ops] the "long face" amphibian of the Early Permian

Description

Looking much like the modern crocodile, Eryops had a stout body with very wide ribs, a strong spine, four short, strong legs, a short tail, and a wide, elongated skull with many sharp teeth in strong jaws. One of the largest land animals of its time, it averaged 5 to 6.5 feet in length and weighed about 200 pounds. The low-slung body was only barely supported by its legs, which were splayed out at an angle that would have made Eryops fairly clumsy on land. Like modern crocodiles, however, it was likely fairly agile, albeit relatively slow, in water.

The most distinguishing features of Eryops were its broad, flat skull (up to 2 feet long) and huge mouth full of teeth that had enamel with a folded pattern.

Distribution

Eryops lived in swamps and along rivers and lakes in North America and western Europe during the Early Permian Period (295-270 million years ago).

Diet

Eryops probably hunted like the crocodiles it resembled, floating just below the surface of shallow swamps and snapping up any fish and other small animals that swam too near. It would clutch its prey and, lacking any chewing mechanism, toss its head up and backwards, throwing the prey farther back into its mouth.

Reproduction

As an amphibian, Eryops most likely laid its eggs in or very near water.

Fossil History

The most complete Eryops fossils have been found in Texas and New Mexico, and a few have also been found in the eastern United States, especially West Virginia. The genus was named by Edward Drinker Cope in 1887.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Amphibia
order Temnospondyli
suborder Euskelia
family Eryopidae
genus Eryops megacephalus

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This page was last updated on 02/04/2015.

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