Varanops

Name: Varanops ‭(‬Varan face‭)‬.
Phonetic: Va-ran-nops.
Named By: Samuel Wendell Williston‭ ‬-‭ ‬1914.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Synapsida,‭ ‬Pelycosauria,‭ ‬Varanopidae.
Species: V.‭ ‬brevirostris.
Type: Carnivore.
Size: About 1 ‭to 1.2 metes long.
Known locations: USA, Oklahoma - Garber Formation, Texas - Arroyo Formation.
Time period: Capitanian of the Permian.
Fossil representation: Several specimens,‭ ‬often of juveniles.

       As a late surviving member of the group,‭ ‬Varanops is often cited as one of the last of the pelycosaurs.‭ ‬With its relatively long legs,‭ ‬Varanops may have been more suited to open ground,‭ ‬as opposed to dense undergrowth where they may have been of a hindrance.‭ ‬They may have also provided for sudden bursts from an ambush point if Varanops employed ambush tactics as a hunting strategy.
       The skulls are often damaged in the fossilisation process,‭ ‬due to their light build for their size,‭ ‬but have revealed a fenestra in the lower jaw that is positioned below the temporal fenestra of the skull.‭ ‬This could be to save skull weight of allow for more specialised muscle attachment.‭ ‬The teeth are curved and laterally compressed for slicing.‭ ‬The teeth towards the middle of the upper jaw are also enlarged,‭ ‬possibly‭ ‬suggesting prey that was agile,‭ ‬and requiring numerous smaller teeth at the front to grip,‭ ‬yet of a size requiring larger teeth to deal with.‭ ‬These prey items may have been some of the diapsid reptiles like Araeoscelis and maybe even terrestrial amphibians like Cacops.
       Varanops did not survive to see the Permian extinction,‭ ‬and is thought to have succumbed to competition from both the diapsids and therapsids that were becoming more common,‭ ‬and more capable predators.

Further reading
- American Permian vertebrates. - University of Chicago Press, Chicago: 130 pp. - Samuel W. Williston - 1911.
- The osteology of some American Permian vertebrates. - Contributions of the Walker Museum 1: 107–162. - Samuel W. Williston - 1914.
- An articulated skeleton of Varanops with bite marks: the oldest known evidence of scavenging among terrestrial vertebrates. - Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26 (4): 1021–1023. - Robert R. Reisz and Linda A. Tsuji - 2006.
- Varanops brevirostris (Eupelycosauria: Varanopidae) from the Lower Permian of Texas, with discussion of varanopid morphology and interrelationships. - Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30 (3): 724–746. - Nicolás E. Campione & Robert R. Reisz - 2010.



----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Random favourites