Dimetrodon, meaning “two-sized tooth,” existed during the early Permian period and weighed in at probably around 140 kg and had a length of about 3 meters. The Dimetrodon was cold-blooded, needing outside sources to warm it up to execute normal metabolic functions to survive. This probably was determined by the chemistry of the enzymes responsible for its functioning. Enzymes, proteins responsible for catalyzing many of the essential chemical reactions necessary for survival, tend to have specific temperature ranges in which they function optimally. One of the most prominent features of this specimen is the large spinal structure on its back. There has been much debate on the issue of what was the function of the spine. Some scholars initially believed it was for camouflage to capture its prey. Others believed it worked like a sail in a boat. These explanations don’t seem to hold up, for a sail wouldn’t work well as camouflage and was too big and cumbersome to justify the usefulness of having it as a sail. Another explanation is that it was used as intimidation for defense or for mating purposes. The reasoning most accepted today is body temperature regulation.

File:Dimetrodon NT2 small.jpg

By Nobu Tamura email:nobu.tamura@yahoo.com http://spinops.blogspot.com/ http://paleoexhibit.blogspot.com/ (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The sail is thought to be able to collect heat from the sun in the morning when it was still cold, giving the Dimetrodon a distinct advantage. The sail is thought to give the Dimetrodon 44% more surface area, allowing more of itself exposed to the sun. The fact that the Dimetrodon was cold-blooded makes this hypothesis the most appealing, for the Dimetrodon would need some way to make sure it regulated its body temperature appropriately to survive.

Florides, G.a, S.a Kalogirou, S.a Tassou, and L. Wrobel. “Natural Environment and Thermal Behaviour of Dimetrodon Limbatus.” Journal of Thermal Biology 26.1 (2001): 15-20. Web.

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