Name: Cistecephalus ‭(‬Box head‭)‬.
Phonetic: Sis-tee-sef-a-lus.
Named By: Richard Owen‭ ‬-‭ ‬1876.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Synapsida,‭ ‬Therapsida,‭ ‬Anomodontia,‭ ‬Dicynodontia.
Species: C.‭ ‬microrhinus (type).
Diet: Invertebrates.
Size: larger individuals up to 60‭ ‬centimetres long.
Known locations: India.‭ ‬South Africa.‭ ‬Zambia.
Time period: Permian.
Fossil representation: Many‭ ‬specimens.

       Cistecephalus could be dubbed the mole of the Permian.‭ ‬The small body was very stout with short limbs which sprawled out to the sides,‭ ‬not great for speed but very good at gripping the sides of a tunnel for traction.‭ ‬The forelimbs in particular show support for very powerful muscles,‭ ‬and were probably the primary digging devices.‭ ‬The skull had an overall flat wedge shape,‭ ‬something which would have allowed Cistecephalus to more easily open its mouth,‭ ‬bearing in mind that space in a burrow would be limited.
       By being a burrower Cistecephalus could hunt for invertebrates like worms that had become exposed within its burrow.‭ ‬It’s also possible that Cistecephalus may have ventured on the surface for short periods,‭ ‬perhaps at night in search for other invertebrate prey.‭ ‬As long as Cistecephalus stayed within its burrow however it could have lived with a relatively high degree of safety compared to other non-burrowing animals.‭ ‬It should be remembered that there also would have been plenty of therapsid predators such as Lycaenops that would have seen Cistecephalus as a good sized meal if they had the chance.
       This burrowing lifestyle goes some way to explaining the huge number of Cistecephalus specimens found at the Cistecephalus assemblage‭ (‬a Permian age formation in South Africa that was named after the Cistecephalus fossils found there.‭ ‬As a burrowing animal if Cistecephalus died inside its burrow,‭ ‬it‭ ‬may have been covered and protected from carnivores scavenging the body.‭ ‬Also environmental factors such as flooding may have drowned Cistecephalus in its burrow,‭ ‬possibly even collapsing it on top of the unfortunate animal.

Further reading
- On a new species of Cistecephalus Owen. - Annals and Magazine of Natural History. 3 (35): 985–997. - A. S. Brink - 1950.
- The skeleton of the mammal-like reptile Cistecephalus with evidence for a fossorial mode of life. - Annals of the South African Museum. 76 (5): 213–246. - Michael A. Cluver -1978.
- New insights into the biology of the Permian genus Cistecephalus (Therapsida, Dicynodontia). - Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 32 (6): 1396–1410. - Tobias Nasterlack, Aurore Canoville & Anusuya Chinsamy - 2012.


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