Dimetrodon is #notadinosaur
I spent my Saturday perusing a nearby toy store and photographing instances in which Dimetrodon and other early Permian (298-295mya) lifeforms are depicted alongside dinosaurs (231-201mya). It’s research for an upcoming episode on The Brain Scoop (or so I tell myself).
Dimetrodon is a genus of extinct early synapsid, and as such were some of of the earliest of their kind to be attributed with a few key characteristics of mammalian classification. That makes them ancient mammal relatives. In other words, we’re are all synapsids, too. Occasionally, Dimetrodon and co. are referred to as “mammal-like reptiles,” but this, too, is a misnomer, as they weren’t reptiles at all. In fact, humans are more closely related to Dimetrodon than Dimetrodon is related to any reptile, including dinosaurs.
So, who cares? Why should we be bothered that toy and book companies aren’t adequately researching their imagery before capitalizing on the market appeal of dinosaurs? Does this do any harm other than annoy those of us who would prefer that our consumables be scientifically or historically accurate?
I think we’re subtly cheating ourselves, and subsequently our children, out of being able to appreciate the diversity of evolved life by clumping extinct species into easy-to-label but unrelated groups and relying on people literally buying into ill-informed products. Dimetrodon is other worldly, ancient, captivating - but so were a million other early synapsids, very few of which make it into the coloring books. The Permian was a time of abundant diversity and we owe it to our natural curiosities to explore our collective past. Doing so may grant us a greater appreciation for how we’re here today.