Last updated
Temporal range: Middle Permian
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Family: Varanopidae
Subfamily: Varanopinae
Olson, 1974
Type species
Watongia meieri
Olson, 1974

Watongia is an extinct genus of non-mammalian synapsids from Middle Permian of Oklahoma. Only one species has been described, Watongia meieri, from the Chickasha Formation. [1] It was assigned to family Gorgonopsidae by Olson [1] and to Eotitanosuchia by Carroll. [2] Reisz and collaborators assigned the genus in Varanopidae. [3] [4]

A genus is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, as well as viruses, in biology. In the hierarchy of biological classification, genus comes above species and below family. In binomial nomenclature, the genus name forms the first part of the binomial species name for each species within the genus.

Mammal class of tetrapods

Mammals are vertebrate animals constituting the class Mammalia, and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in females produce milk for feeding (nursing) their young, a neocortex, fur or hair, and three middle ear bones. These characteristics distinguish them from reptiles and birds, from which they diverged in the late Triassic, 201–227 million years ago. There are around 5,450 species of mammals. The largest orders are the rodents, bats and Soricomorpha. The next three are the Primates, the Cetartiodactyla, and the Carnivora.

Synapsid class of tetrapods

Synapsids are a group of animals that includes mammals and every animal more closely related to mammals than to other living amniotes. They are easily separated from other amniotes by having a temporal fenestra, an opening low in the skull roof behind each eye, leaving a bony arch beneath each; this accounts for their name. Primitive synapsids are usually called pelycosaurs or pelycosaur-grade synapsids. This informal term consists of all synapsids which are not therapsids, a monophyletic more advanced mammal-like group. The non-mammalian synapsids are described as mammal-like reptiles in classical systematics; they can also be called stem mammals or proto-mammals. Synapsids evolved from basal amniotes and are one of the two major groups of the later amniotes, the other being the sauropsids, a group that includes modern reptiles and birds. The distinctive temporal fenestra developed in the ancestral synapsid about 312 million years ago, during the Late Carboniferous period.


Based on scaling with other synapsids, length of Watongia was about 2 to 2.5 metres (6 ft 7 in to 8 ft 2 in), making it the largest of the family Varanopidae. [5]

Varanopidae family of synapsids

Varanopidae is an extinct family of amniotes that resembled monitor lizards and might have had the same lifestyle, hence their name. Typically, they are considered synapsids that evolved from an Archaeothyris-like synapsid in the Late Carboniferous, but a recent study has recovered them as diapsid reptiles. A varanopid from the latest Middle Permian Pristerognathus Assemblage Zone is the youngest known varanopid and the last member of the "pelycosaur" group of synapsids.

See also

Related Research Articles

Therapsid Order of tetrapods (fossil)

Therapsida is a group of synapsids that includes mammals and their ancestors. Many of the traits today seen as unique to mammals had their origin within early therapsids, including having their four limbs extend vertically beneath the body, as opposed to the sprawling posture of reptiles. The earliest fossil attributed to Therapsida is Tetraceratops insignis from the Lower Permian.

Caseasauria taxon of tetrapods

Caseasauria is one of the two main clades of early synapsids, the other being the Eupelycosauria. Caseasaurs are currently known only from the Late Carboniferous and the Permian, and include two superficially different families, the small insectivorous or carnivorous Eothyrididae, and the large, herbivorous, potentially aquatic Caseidae. These two groups share a number of specialised features associated with the morphology of the snout and external naris.

<i>Varanops</i> genus of synapsid

Varanops is an extinct genus of Early Permian varanopid synapsids known from Texas and Oklahoma of the United States. It was first named by Samuel Wendell Williston in 1911 as a second species of Varanosaurus, Varanosaurus brevirostris. In 1914, Samuel W. Williston reassigned it to its own genus and the type species is Varanops brevirostris.

Araeoscelidia order of tetrapods that developed two holes (temporal fenestra) in each side of their skulls, about 300 million years ago

Araeoscelidia or Araeoscelida is a clade of extinct diapsid reptiles superficially resembling lizards, extending from the Late Carboniferous to the Early Permian. The group contains the genera Araeoscelis, Petrolacosaurus, the possibly aquatic Spinoaequalis, and less well-known genera such as Kadaliosaurus and Zarcasaurus. This clade is considered to be the sister group to all later diapsids.

<i>Cotylorhynchus</i> genus of synapsids

Cotylorhynchus is an extinct genus of very large synapsids that lived in the southern part of what is now North America during the Early Permian period. It is the best known member of the synapsid clade Caseidae, usually considered the largest terrestrial vertebrates of the Early Permian, though they were possibly aquatic.

<i>Varanodon</i> species of synapsid

Varanodon is an extinct genus of pelycosaurs of the family Varanopidae. It reached a length of about 1.2 to 1.4 metres. It lived during the early late Permian period.

<i>Colobomycter</i> genus of reptiles (fossil)

Colobomycter is an extinct genus of small parareptile known from the Early Permian of Oklahoma. The genus was first described from fossil remains in 1958, at which time it was believed to represent a synapsid, specifically, a pelycosaur. However, the discovery of new material and reexamination of the holotype led to its reclassification as a member of the Eureptilia. More recent studies indicate that Colobomycter is properly placed within the amniote clade Parareptilia, closely related to the taxon Acleistorhinus. Together, the two taxa form the Family Acleistorhinidae.

Thrausmosaurus is a genus of synapsid pelycosaurs from the extinct family Varanopidae. Like all that resemble members of Varanopidae, Thrausmosaurus most likely resembled the modern monitor lizard and may have had the same lifestyle. The type and only species was described by R. C. Fox in 1962, from three fossilized jaw fragments bearing teeth. The specimens were recovered from the fissure-fill deposits uncovered in a Limestone Quarry, north of Fort Sill, Comanche County, Oklahoma, USA. These deposits are dated to the Kungurian (Leonardian) of the Lower Permian.

Fayella is an extinct genus of dubious temnospondyl from the Early Permian (Guadalupian) of Oklahoma.

<i>Aerosaurus</i> genus of synapsid

Aerosaurus is an extinct genus within Varanopidae, a family of non-mammalian synapsids. It lived between 252-299 million years ago during the Early Permian in North America. The name comes from Latin aes (aeris) “copper” and Greek sauros “lizard,” for El Cobre Canyon in northern New Mexico, where the type fossil was found and the site of former copper mines. Aerosaurus was a small to medium-bodied carnivorous synapsid characterized by its recurved teeth, triangular lateral temporal fenestra, and extended teeth row. Two species are recognized: A. greenleeorum (1937) and A. wellesi (1981).

<i>Dimacrodon</i> genus of mammals (fossil)

Dimacrodon is an extinct genus of non-mammalian synapsid from the latest Early Permian San Angelo Formation of Texas. It is distinguished by toothless, possibly beaked jaw tips, large lower canines and a thin bony crest on top of its head. Previously thought to be an anomodont therapsid related to dicynodonts, it was later found to lack any diagnostic features of anomodonts or even therapsids and instead appears to be a 'pelycosaur'-grade synapsid of uncertain classification.

Elliotsmithia is a small varanopseid synapsid found from the late Middle Permian of South Africa. It is the sole basal synapsid "pelycosaur" known from the supercontinent Gondwana and only two specimens have been yielded to date. Its species name longiceps is derived from Latin, meaning "long head". Both known Elliotsmithia fossils were recovered from Abrahamskraal Formation rocks—within the boundaries of the Tapinocephalus Assemblage Zone—of the lower Beaufort Group.

Knoxosaurus is an extinct genus of non-mammalian synapsids containing the species Knoxosaurus niteckii that existed approximately 279.5 to 268 million years ago. It was named by American paleontologist Everett C. Olson in 1962 on the basis of fragmentary fossils from Middle Permian-age deposits in the San Angelo Formation of Texas in the United States. Olson placed Knoxosaurus in a new infraorder called Eotheriodontia, which he considered a transitional group between the more reptile-like "pelycosaurs" and the more mammal-like therapsids. Knoxosaurus and Olson's other eotheriodonts were later considered to be undiagnostic remains of basal synapsids, no more closely related to therapsids than are other pelycosaur-grade synapsids.

Oromycter is an extinct genus of caseid synapsids from the Early Permian of Oklahoma. The sole and type species, Oromycter dolesorum, was named in 2005 by Robert R. Reisz.

<i>Phreatophasma</i> genus of tetrapods

Phreatophasma is an extinct genus of synapsids from the Middle Permian of European Russia. It includes only one species, Phreatophasma aenigmatum, which is itself known from a single femur found in a mine near the town of Belebei in Bashkortostan. Phreatophasma comes from a fossil assemblage that is latest Ufimian to earliest Kazanian in age under the Russian stratigraphic scheme, correlating with the Roadian Age under the international stratigraphic timescale. Because the species is based on a single specimen with few diagnostic anatomical features, uncertainty remains as to where it belongs in tetrapod phylogeny; originally interpreted in 1954 as an enigmatic "theromorph" synapsid by Soviet paleontologist Ivan Yefremov, Phreatophasma was later described as a therapsid incertae sedis by American paleontologist Alfred Romer in 1956 and then as a member of a basal synapsid family called Caseidae starting with Everett C. Olson in 1962. Olson's classification was later supported by Canadian paleontologist Robert Reisz in 1986 and American paleontologist Robert L. Carroll in 1988. Ivakhneneko et al. (1997) and Maddin et al. (2008) both considered Phreatophasma an indeterminate synapsid.

<i>Acleistorhinus</i> genus of reptiles (fossil)

Acleistorhinus (ah-kles-toe-RYE-nuss) is an extinct genus of parareptile known from the Early Permian of Oklahoma It is notable for being the earliest known anapsid reptile yet discovered. The morphology of the lower temporal fenestra of the skull of Acleistorhinus bears a superficial resemblance to that seen in early synapsids, a result of convergent evolution. Only a single species, A. pteroticus, is known, and it is classified in the Family Acleistorhinidae, along with Colobomycter.

<i>Heleosaurus</i> genus of synapsid

Heleosarus scholtzi is an extinct species of basal synapsids, known as pelycosaurs, in the family of Varanopidae during the middle Permian. At first H. scholtzi was mistakenly classified as a diapsid. Members of this family were carnivorous and had dermal armor, and somewhat resembled monitor lizards. This family was the most geologically long lived, widespread, and diverse group of early amniotes. To date only two fossils have been found in the rocks of South Africa. One of these fossils is an aggregation of five individuals.


  1. 1 2 Olson, E.C. 1974. On the Source of Therapsids. Annals of the South African Museum 64: 27-46.
  2. Carroll, R. L. Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution. W. H Freeman Company, 1988.
  3. Reisz, R. R. & Laurin, M. 2004. A reevaluation of the enigmatic Permian synapsid Watongia and of its stratigraphic significance. Canadian Journal of Earth Science 41, 377–386.
  4. Maddin, H.C., Evans, D.C. & Reisz, R.R. 2006. An Early Permian varanodontine varanopid (Synapsida: Eupelycosauria) from the Richards Spur locality, Oklahoma. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26 (4): 957-966.
  5. http://manasataramgini.wordpress.com/2006/11/01/watongia/