Moschops. Dmitri Bogdanov


Moschops (Greek for "calf face"); pronounced MOE-shops


Forests of South Africa

Historical Period:

Late Permian (255 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 16 feet long and one ton



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Thick skull; short tail; front legs longer than hind legs

About Moschops

Moschops is a case study in how evolution produces roughly the same forms to occupy the same ecological niches. Although it was a therapsid (mammal-like reptile) rather than a true dinosaur, Moschops was markedly similar to later ornithopods and hadrosaurs like Iguanodon and Maiasaura: thick-set, medium-sized, and built close to the ground, the better to browse on low-lying vegetation. In an important sense, though, Moschops was the less "evolved" reptile, since it had a classic, splay-footed reptilian posture and (if it was possible) an even tinier brain. (By the way, the family of mammal-like reptiles to which Moschops belong went on to spawn the earliest true mammals during the Triassic period.

It may seem hard to believe, but Moschops was the star of a short-lived kids' TV show back in 1983, though it's unclear whether the producers knew that it technically wasn't a dinosaur. Granted, that wasn't the only scientific inaccuracy: for example, Moschops shared a cave with his best friend, an Allosaurus, and his grandfather was a Diplodocus. Perhaps it was a good thing that Moschops only lasted for 13 episodes before fading into pop-culture obscurity.