Life Before the

Introducing the , its bizarre creatures and the greatest ever experienced. A Travelling Exhibition Blending Art and Science

Exhibition Overview Step back in time 290 million when bizarre-looking dominated life on land and sea, and find out about the greatest extinction the world has ever seen in ‘Permian Monsters: Life before the Dinosaurs’. This unique exhibition brings the past back to life with fossilized skeletons and full size life models of the animals that ruled the world millions of years before the age of dinosaurs, in a time known as the Permian.

The Permian period ended with the largest extinction Earth ever experienced, which wiped out 90% of all on the planet. The cause of the end-Permian extinction had baffled scientists for the past 20 years but a recent discovery shed new light on the cause of this catastrophe: global warming. Find out how this familiar phenomenon, started by a huge volcanic eruption, set off a chain of events that led to the greatest extinction on Earth.

The exhibition blends art and science with a collection of new artwork which offers a glimpse back in time through the eyes of award winning paleo-artist Julius Csotonyi. View fossilised skeletons and reconstructed models of these amazing but bizarre creatures that dominated land and sea; and dig and identify in the interactive dig pits throughout the exhibition.

‘Permian Monsters’ showcases an amazing collection of fossils and models from this relatively unknown time period, from giant , bizarre looking to strange with -like characteristics. Meet the top predator of the time, the giant saber- toothed gorgonopsid ‘’ and find out what nearly killed them all to make way for Earth’s next rulers, the Dinosaurs. INTRODUCTION

The Permian is a that began approximately 290 million years ago, millions of years before the age of the dinosaurs. During the Permian, the First large and carnivores conquered life on land. The Permian ended with the largest mass extinction in the .

What was the Earth like?

During the Permian the Earth’s land masses were joined in one known as Pangea.

The Permian began at the end of an , therefore the Earth was cooler than present day. As time passed, the icecaps melted and the Earth slowly warmed up, becoming a lush green planet, where both and life thrived. What life forms existed during the Permian? Plant life consisted of , and small shrubs.

Animals included , , and reptiles.

During the Permian reptiles developed mammal-like characteristics, but the first true would not appear until the next geological period, the .

How long did it last? The Permian period lasted 40 million years. It ended 250 million years ago with the start of the Triassic period.

How did it end? The Permian ended with the largest mass extinction in the history of Earth: over 90% of all plant and animal life were wiped out. By the end of the Permian the Earth had become a biological . permian sea

During the Permian, Earth’s single land mass Pangea was surrounded by an enormous ocean called .

Panthalassa teemed with life from tiny single-celled organisms to marine arthropods and laRge FIsh.

The Permian period was the end of an called the , meaning “ancient life”. During the Paleozoic life in the sea evolved into many strange creatures, from giant sea to bizarre looking sharks. There were also many life forms such as , ammonites, , , gastropods, and . also formed in the Paleozoic; after their near-extinction at the end of the period, they began to regenerate during the Permian period producing huge reefs. permian sea

The end of an era was the most affected by Sharks and bony suffered a major the Permian-Triassic Extinction, with reduction in species but did survive the loss of most . By the the extinction. end of the Permian 96% of all marine life had disappeared. Many corals did not survive the extinction. The horn corals and tabulate corals that Some groups that had dominated the had built many reefs disappeared during ocean during the Permian, such as the Permian-Triassic extinction. ammonites, nautiloids, brachiopods and crinoids, did survive the extinction but Trilobites, a dominant life form in the their species were greatly diminished in ocean for 290 million years, became number and they never held ecological extinct by the end of the Permian. dominance again.

Artwork ‘‘Permian Sea ’’by Julius Csotonyi

How did they evolve? Amphibians originally evolved from from evolved originally Amphibians millions period, fish in the Devonian They the Permian. before of years onto out of the ocean forced were of larger land with the evolution a safe land was marine creatures: these new predators. from haven Permian amphibians, Like today’s cold-blooded amphibians were metamorphosed that creatures water- a juvenile (changed) from an air-breathing to form breathing adult; and laid their eggs in water, as did their fish ancestors. just a few centimetres long but some some but long centimetres few a just in length. a metre up to species grew have to thought are by taken not niches ecological in lived amphibians. Temnospondyl larger the (meaning owever their numbers were reduced li (meaning y H li d y skull d on on sp sp no o any lineages were wiped out during mphibians became top predators by the Early em ep Conquering the land Conquering the L T “husk vertebra”) were a small but were “husk vertebra”) of amphibians that diverse Species in the early Permian. lived or semi-aquatic, aquatic, were mostly were They terrestrial. “cut vertebra”) resembled large large resembled vertebra”) “cut worldwide and flourished groups Several during the Permian. limbs and robust strong, evolved to vertebrae and became adapted while others developed on land, life heavy-bodied semi-aquatic into the end of the Toward predators. pushed back into they were Permian the newly evolved by the swamps reptiles. mammal-like large small weird-looking The Unlike the small amphibians of today, today, of amphibians small the Unlike ; and toads , as such dominant the were amphibians Permian. early the of animals land with sizes, monstrous achieved They and jaws tooth-studded massive, legs. strong -like large The carnivores and global warming. M the Permian-Triassic Extinction. A Permian, with the evolution of large land-dwelling

AMPHIBIANS Artwork ‘Permian Amphibians ’’ by Julius Csotonyi Inostrancevia skeleton Inostrancevia dominated the early early the dominated

evolved into many different different many into evolved be be First time during the during First time

groups, and became the dominant dominant the became and groups, herbivores and carnivores terrestrial the include They Permian. late the of which ‘Inostrancevia’ gorgonopsid late the in predator top a became Permian. are believed to be the the be to believed are Therapsids and mammals, all of ancestors ancestors. own our therefore Permian : the ancestors of ? the by distinguished are Anapsids behind skull the in hole a of absence the include They eye. each largest the of one ‘’, lived that (plant-eaters) herbivores to up reaching Permian, the during also are Turtles length. in metres 3 be to some by believed are and anapsids anapsids. Permian of descendants Permian : the ancestors of dinosaurs two by distinguished are Diapsids eye. each behind skull the in holes little and size small their Despite the during dominance are they Permian, to believed Therapsids Permian, and they include the well- the include they and Permian, . sail-backed known the ancestors ancestors the , of crocodiles, , dinosaurs. and are divided into the following following the into divided are Synapsids groups: main two

Dimetrodon skeleton Dimetrodon Permian Synapsids: the Ancestors of mammals group dominant the were synapsids The are They Permian. the during reptiles of ‘mammal- as known commonly also showed they because reptiles’ like had which mammals, of characteristics characteristics These evolved. yet not behind skull the in hole single a include the species, some in and, eye, each different had also They . of presence big incisors, frontal teeth: of types molars and tearing for canines lateral by shared characteristic a chewing; for mammals. modern Reptiles first appeared at the end of the the of end the at appeared first Reptiles immediately period the , from evolving Permian, the before they Permian, the During amphibians. creatures bizarre and large into evolved length. in metres 4.5 to up reaching reptiles Permian classify Paleontologists synapsids, groups- main three into the on based diapsids- and anapsids skull. their in holes of number toothed Flesh-eater to large herbivores and small, and small, herbivores to large Flesh-eater toothed WOULD eventually reptiles which likely warm-blooded mammals. give rise to Reptiles dominated land for the land for dominated Reptiles from saber- many forms, into They evolved Permian.

REPTILES Artwork ‘Gorgonopsids ’’ by Julius Csotonyi REPTI L E S Dinocephalia meaning “terrible head” Dinocephalians were therapsids that appeared in the early Permian and became the largest animals of this period, some possibly weighing up to 2 tons. Some were carnivores (meat eaters), while others were herbivores (plant eaters) or omnivores (meat and plant eaters). The dinocephalians mysteriously became extinct at the end of the middle Permian leaving no descendants.

Dicynodont meaning “two dog teeth” are therapsids that appeared in the middle Permian. They belong to the group Anomodontia. They were toothless, except for two tusk-like canines, and herbivores (plant eaters). They ranged in sizes from small -like animals to up to 4 metres in length during the Triassic. The dicynodonts survived the Permian extinction and dominated the Triassic.

Pelycosaur meaning “basin ” Pelycosaurs are synapsids that appeared in the late Carboniferous and dominated the early Permian. Early pelycosaurs were small lizard- like animals which evolved into many different types of herbivores and carnivores, both small and large, no more than 4 metres in length. The most well known is the sail-backed Dimetrodon.

Pelycosaurs lost their dominance in the middle Permian and the few groups that made it through became extinct during the Permian-Triassic extinction. REPTI L E S Pareiasaur meaning “cheek lizard” are a group of anapsids that were dominant in the late Permian. These medium to large-sized herbivores (plant-eaters) include the biggest terrestrial anapsids that ever lived, growing up to 3 metres in length. Pareiasaurs had small heads with a large round body, stocky limbs and short pointy tail. It has been suggested that they are related to modern turtles. Pareiasaurs became extinct during the Permian-Triassic extinction.

Cynodont meaning “dog teeth” are therapsids that appeared towards the end of the Permian. It is believed that they are the direct ancestors of mammals. Small holes in the snout suggest that cynodonts had whiskers and were covered with hair, indicating that they were warm-blooded. Cynodonts have characteristics of both mammals and reptile and could be the missing link between the two groups. Cynodonts were among the few groups that survived the Permian– Triassic extinction.

Gorgonopsid meaning “Gorgon face” Gorgonopsids are therapsids that appeared in the middle Permian. They were carnivores, some were dog size while others possibly grew up to 4 metres in length. Gorgonopsids had huge powerful jaws and large saber- teeth; and were the top predator of the late Permian. Gorgonopsids became extinct during the Permian- Triassic extinction. THE GREAT DYING

The Permian - Triassic Extinction

The Permian ended with the largest approximately 5 degrees Celsius. extinction in Earth’s history, known as the Permian-Triassic extinction or As a result of global warming from ‘The Great Dying’. volcanic activity, frozen methane hydrate stored in large deposits Recent discoveries relate the beneath the ocean floor melted, Permian-Triassic extinction to a releasing methane gas into the major event that occurred at the atmosphere. This caused global time: the volcanic eruption that warming by a further 5 degrees created the . Also Celsius. This 10 degree Celsius known as a eruption, increase was enough to wipe out this volcanic eruption continued 90% of all species on the planet. for one million years, and covered 2 million square kilometres, roughly Up to 96% of the Earth’s marine the size of Western . Its species and 70% of reptile, effects were acid rain, blocked amphibian, , and species out sunlight and disruption of became extinct. photosynthesis, causing a collapse of the food chain. emitted from the eruption would have caused global warming and raised land and sea temperatures by Artwork ‘Permian-Triassic Extinction ’ by Julius Csotonyi like reptiles, but after the extinction the displace diapsids began to surviving mammal-like reptiles, forcing them into the shadows to evolve into small nocturnal insectivores (insect eaters).This nocturnal lifestyle probably assisted their evolutionary journey towards becoming true mammals, forcing them to develop fur and higher metabolic rates.

The origins of mammals and dinosaurs The origins of mammals and It took 30 million years for surviving species to recover from the Permian-Triassic Extinction. The survivors, known from the record, are small to medium sized animals that may have burrowed to survive in the extreme temperatures of the planet.

Cynodonts are one of the few groups of therapsids or mammal-like reptiles that survived the Permian–Triassic extinction. It is believed that they are the ancestors of modern mammals. Anothersmalldiapsids,thegroupwere the ancestors of snakes, lizards, crocodiles, birds and dinosaurs. During the Permian, diapsids were far less abundant than mammal-

urvivors S SECTION 6. THE SURVIVORS The : The most successful animal that walked the Earth ‘Lystrosaurus’, one of the dicynodonts, In some Triassic fossil beds 95% of fossils also survived the extinction and thrived found are from Lystrosaurus, leading during the Triassic, the period where experts to believe that at their peak they dinosaurs first appeared. Lystrosaurus’ made up half of all life on the planet. This remains have been found on every would make them the most successful continent, playing an important role in animals to ever walk the Earth. proving the theory that all land masses were once joined together and slowly moved apart, known as the theory of continental drift.

Artwork ‘‘The Permian Survivors ’’by Julius Csotonyi Exhibition audiences

‘Permian Monsters’ is designed to show and allows people to touch and appeal directly to families, get close to the specimens. enthusiasts and educational groups. Other elements that contribute to the Children’s interests and school curricula kid-friendly approach are a large number have framed the exhibition approach. of colourful artworks - especially comis- With these in mind, all exhibition text sioned to illustrate scenes or ‘windows’ keeps scientific terms and jargon to a into Permian life; full size life models, minimum. digpits for kids to dig for fossil bones, The exhibition is rich in natural history interactive stations, touch fossils (casts), specimens and interactives, with the question & answer computer quizes and majority of objects on display being a Permian soundscape with insect, reptile casts and life models. The use of casts and amphibian sounds. aids in the interactive nature of the


‘Permian Monsters’ has been produced Artists by Australian-based company Julius Csotonyi, Manitoba, Studios, which specializes Staab Studios, Missouri, USA in the fabrication of scientific replicas Graphic Designer and museum exhibitions. Holding a Louise Thrush, Launceston, large collection of fossil casts from the Permian and a long-term interest in this Fossil Reproductions time period, Gondwana Studios decided Valley Anatomical, California, USA to produce an exhibition focusing on Black Hills Institute of Geological this fascinating and relatively unknown Research, , USA part of Earth’s history. Gaston Design, Colorado, USA The following associates have Chris Moore Fossils, Dorset, UK contributed to the development Audio Engineer of the exhibition: Nick Monson, , USA

Scientific Computer Interactive Prof Paul Wignall, University of Leeds, Tasmanian Polytechnic, Launceston, Leeds, UK Australia Ron Blakey, Geosystems, Colorado, USA Production Support The Stone Company, Colorado, USA Booking and contact information Gondwana Studios PO Box 148 Launceston, 7250 Australia Tel: 0418 367 282 (International +61 418 367 282) E-mail: [email protected] Website: PO Box 148 Launceston, Tasmania 7250 Australia Tel: 0418 367 282 (International +61 418 367 282) E-mail: [email protected] Web site: