We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Therocephalians?

Michael Anissimov
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Therocephalians ("beast-heads") were an extinct suborder of theriodont therapsids (Permian/Triassic ancestors of mammals) that were among the dominant animals on Earth during the mid-to-late Permian and the early Triassic, until archosaurs (the ancestors and relatives of dinosaurs) took over about 235 million years ago. Therocephalian fossils are dated to between about 275 and about 235 million years ago. The large skulls and teeth of therocephalians indicates they were successful carnivores. Therocephalians had some early mammal-like characteristics, including fur and whiskers. At least some species were warm-blooded. At least one species (Euchambersia) had a maximal pit and grooved caniform teeth, indicative of a venom gland, which would make therocephalians the earliest known venomous vertebrates.

The therocephalians were part of the second wave of development in synapsid (mammalian ancestor) life, taking over the land in the mid-to-late Permian, competing with and replacing relatives that had branched off earlier, such as other synapsids, including the famous pelycosaurs, which became extinct in the mid-Permian. Therocephalians evolved on Earth during a time when synapsids had been the dominant terrestrial animals for several tens of millions of years, displacing the amphibian-dominated fauna of the Carboniferous.

Therocephalians are unique in being synapsids that started their career as the dominant predators, topped ecosystems for about twenty million of years, barely survive the greatest mass extinction in the history of the planet (the Permian-Triassic extinction), then go on to see reptilian rivals (archosaurs) overcome them in an event known as the "Triassic Takeover," the exact causes of which are still unknown. It may have something to do with the increasing aridity of the planet during that time, favoring reptiles. Reptiles excrete uric acid instead of urea, a form of excretion that conserves water more effectively urea, which is used by mammals today and synapsids (including therocephalians) at the time.

Cynodonts, the Triassic ancestors of mammals, were another suborder of theriodonts related to therocephlians. Together, both groups constituted most powerful Late Permian/Early Triassic predators and omnivores, corresponding to today's carnivorans. Therocephalians would have fed on pareiasaurs, herbivorous anapsids (reptiles without skull holes, like turtles), which ranged in size from 60 cm (22 in) to 3 m (10 ft), tapinocephalians (ton-sized synapsids with thick heads), and large dicynodonts (rat-to-ox-sized therapsids that were among the most successful animals in the immediate wake of the Permian-Triassic extinction, in some places accounting for 99% of all vertebrate faunas).

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.
Discussion Comments
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology...
Learn more
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.