The Permian mammal-like herbivore Diictodon, the oldest known example of sexually dimorphic armament

Corwin Sullivan, Robert R. Reisz, Roger M. H. Smith

Abstract

Dicynodonts, a highly successful group of Palaeozoic tetrapods, were herbivores with keratinous beaks, and were frequently equipped with large, neomorphic tusks. Diictodon is a particularly abundant dicynodont genus, allowing statistical investigation of its palaeobiology. Anatomical, morphometric and distributional analyses provide evidence of sexual dimorphism, based on the presence or absence of formidable tusks. Tusk occurrence is also correlated with the presence of a cranial boss on the skull roof and, possibly, with greater cranial size. This earliest well–documented example of dimorphic armament suggests that sexual dimorphism, and the complex social behaviour that accompanies it, have long been characteristic of the synapsid lineage.

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