Whoa, get a load of this thing. It’s called Bunostegos — a cow-sized pareiasaur that roamed an ancient desert of Pangea during the Upper Permian era. Its discovery suggests that a part of the supercontinent contained an ecosystem all its own.

The Pangea supercontinent may have been a single landmass, but paleontologists now suspect that certain animals were locked into its central region for upwards of millions of years.


Geological data shows that this desert region, what is now Niger, was extremely dry, which worked to discourage some animals from passing through, while keeping those within it from venturing out. The result: Very little intermingling between species — and an ecosystem largely separated from the substantially larger one surrounding it.

As for Bunostegos, it’s name means “kobby [skull] roof.” It was a cow-sized, plant eating reptile with a bumpy skull and bony armor down its back. Its features suggest that it was more closely related to older and more primitive pareiasaurs, leading to the conclusion that its genealogical lineage was isolated for millions of years. That, or its features were the result of convergent evolution.


Read the entire study at the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology: “The vertebrate fauna of the Upper Permian of Niger—VII. Cranial anatomy and relationships of Bunostegos akokanensis (Pareiasauria)

Image: Marc Boulay.