Most likely, when you hear the term “ancient predator,” you think of dinosaurs, particularly the T. rex. However, Pampaphoneus biccai, the largest and most lethal predator of its day, inhabited South America 40 million years before the period of the dinosaurs.
The finding of a fossilised specimen of the species dating to 265 million years ago was reported by a global team of scientists in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. The amazing fossil specimen also contains various skeleton bones, such as ribs and arm bones, as well as an entire skill. Just before the greatest extinction disaster in Earth history, Pampaphoneus existed. The catastrophe led to the extinction of 86% of all animal species worldwide.
Dinocephalians were among the most numerous groups of thriving terrestrial animals before the extinction catastrophe. The category consisted of medium- to large-sized herbivorous and carnivorous species. They seems to have been more rarer in other regions of the world but were very prevalent in South Africa and Russia. The sole species of the genus Pampaphoneus that lived in what is now Brazil is Pampaphoneus biccai.
The fossil was discovered in middle Permian strata, a region where bones are scarce but can provide delightful surprises. After so many years, finding a new Pampaphoneus skull was crucial for advancing our understanding of the species, which has previously been challenging to distinguish from its Russian cousins, according to senior author Mateus A. Costa Santos.
The animal must have been a gnarly-appearing beast, inspiring absolute horror in anyone that crossed its way, claims co-author Stephanie E. Pierce.
The skull of the Pampaphoneus is the second one to be found in South America. It is not just bigger than the first, but the well-preserved bones provide us a lot more details about the animal’s physical makeup and structure.