1.9" Permian Eryops Fossil Scapula Bone - Texas

This is a 1.9" wide bone section from the scapula of the Permian amphibian Eryops. The scapula is colloquially known as the "shoulder blade" in most terrestrial vertebrates. It was collected from the Texas Red Beds Formation in Northern Texas and is approximately 280 million years old.

Eryops, maining “drawn-out face”, was a primitive amphibious temnospondyls that lived about 295 million years ago. While a handful of complete skeletons have been found, teeth are the most common fossil. Its fossils are primarily found in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

Artist's reconstruction of the Eryops, by Dmitry Bogdanov.  Creative Commons
Artist's reconstruction of the Eryops, by Dmitry Bogdanov. Creative Commons

Eryops averaged around 5 to 7 feet long, but could grow up to 10 feet, making them the largest land animals living at the time. They had a large, broad, flat skull with a large mouth and many slightly curved teeth. Its teeth had enamel with a folded pattern, leading to its early classification as a "labyrinthodont" ("maze toothed"). The shape and cross section of these teeth made them exceptionally strong and resistant to stresses. The palate, or roof of the mouth, contained three pairs of backward-curved fangs, and was covered in backward-pointing bony projections that would have been used to trap slippery prey once caught. This, coupled with the wide gape, suggest an inertial method of feeding, in which the animal would grasp its prey and thrust forward, forcing the prey farther back into its mouth.

Like other large primitive temnospondyls, Eryops would have grown slowly and gradually from aquatic larvae, but they did not go through a dramatic metamorphosis like many modern amphibians. While adults probably lived in ponds and rivers or may have ventured onto their banks, juvenile Eryops may have lived in swamps, which may have offered more shelter from predators.

Cast of a fossil skeleton of Eryops
Cast of a fossil skeleton of Eryops

Eryops sp.
Northern Texas
Texas Red Beds Formation
1.9" wide
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