The canine’s jaw

  • Name: Cynognathus
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Weight: 20 kg
  • Period: Triassic
  • Found In: South America/Africa

Cynognathus was a genus of reptile-mammals that inhabited our planet along with the first dinosaurs that existed, in the Permian, approximately 245 million years ago.

This extinct animal has been classified within the group of the terapsid reptiles, being this a genus represented by only one species.

This genus would have been one of the ancestors of today’s mammals, in fact it has a close relationship with today’s mammals, especially with dogs

The name Cynognathus literally means “dog’s jaw” and he would have been a really fast animal compared to other animals of his time, although he would not have been as fast as the dogs.

Do you want to know more? Below you will find detailed information about the Cynognathus, stay with us and find out all about this carnivorous reptile from the Triassic period!

Taxonomy of Cynognathus

  • We are dealing with a species belonging to the kingdom of Animalia.
  • This extinct animal is classified within the Chordata phylum.
  • The class in which it has been encompassed is Synapsida.
  • The corresponding order is Therapsida.
  • It was classified within the suborder Cynodontia.
  • The family to which this animal belonged is Cynognathidae.
  • The genus we are referring to is Cynognathus.

It is very important to mention at this point that Cynognathus was not a dinosaur, if it was, we would observe in its taxonomy that it belongs to the superorder Dinosauria, it is simply an extinct animal and the reason why it is exposed here is that it is part of the history of terrestrial biodiversity.

Another aspect that we must clarify is that as we already warned in the introduction this genus is represented by only one species, C. crateronotus, however, if new fossil remains of the same genus were found but with enough differences this situation could change.

For this reason, from this platform we will do everything possible to keep the taxonomy of this animal updated in the face of any new discovery.

Discovery of the Cynognathus

The vestiges that have been found of the animal were basically found in different continents, one of them is the African continent, inside which many remains could be found, exactly in South Africa.

Another of these continents also turned out to be that of America, in which concretely in the southern zone of this one, diverse bony elements were managed to be found, exactly in a territory that belongs to the southern country of Argentina.

Likewise, vestiges have been detected in the Asian continent and exactly in a country known as China. Besides, in Antarctica there are also fossil remains that are probably being studied and investigated in depth.

When fossil remains are found in such diverse territories, it is generally pointed out that Pangaea, a unique continent that is estimated to have formed 300 million years ago and that approximately 200 million years ago began to fracture progressively until the current state of the continents, has disappeared.

This progressive separation would explain that in our time these vestiges could be found in such remote places.

Characteristics of Cynognathus

Its length did not exceed 100 centimeters, and it was an animal that was directly linked to the specimens that we recognize today as mammals, so we can say that in reality the reptile that is the protagonist of this article is the ancestor of mammals.

That is why even its classification is next to them, in a clade that has as official name that of Eucynodontia.


This animal was actually a reptile, so we should not confuse things and say that they are mammals, what is true is that they enjoyed many similarities with them.

They were the specimens that most resembled mammals, but as we mentioned, they were not mammals at all and obviously not dinosaurs, but one more animal that was the result of evolution and worth knowing.

On the skull of this specimen we can see that it had a series of smaller openings, which are also common in the cranial elements of today’s mammals, because that is where the necessary nerves are housed.

Elements that fulfill the function of transmitting the impulses and information from the neurons, and in this case to the mustache area, as we can see in animals of today such as cats or dogs.

These nerves helped to carry nervous information to that precise area of the body, which is why Cynognathus had a specialized form of fur, a form that we call under the name of moustache.

This curious specimen has been compared to an aggressive wolf, but perhaps the most accurate comparison can be made with a large dog, such as an Alsatian, or even a large Labrador.

The head of these animals was of considerable size if we consider the proportion that it had on his body.

On their teeth we have already mentioned that they were quite sharp and with a shape similar to fangs, as well as we can also observe the presence of dental elements that enjoyed a more pyramidal shape.

These teeth were located precisely in the area we commonly know as cheeks, that is, internally in the sides of the jaw.

From the dental structure that this animal presents, we can say that it was actually a specimen that based its diet on the consumption of meat, since these dental elements were perfectly designed to grind large amounts of meat to digest it later.

Another similarity that this animal had with the mammals was the body and the great agility or flexibility that this structure presented, additionally the tail that this specimen had was of a not so considerable size, in the same way that in the animals that today we know like mammals.

It is also necessary to highlight clearly that, in a generic way, reptiles have an elongated tail, so this is not something common in a reptile like Cynognathus, although as you may have observed it is an atypical reptile.

As we can already assume, this creature enjoyed an incredible speed with respect to other specimens of its time, moreover, it is said that it was not as fast as dogs either, because its anatomical structure did not allow it to reach the same or greater speed than the latter.

When we refer to an anatomical structure not designed for greater speed, we refer to the fact that its extremities were of a rather small size and that the elements that we can name as feet, enjoyed a flattened form that fitted precisely on the ground.

These details that initially might not reveal any importance, came to take away from the specimen the ability to reach high speeds, speeds that can only be achieved by dogs today.

If we observe carefully the structure of the extremities of the dogs, we can see clearly that these lean on the feet and at the same time on their own fingers, a quality or detail that makes the animal much faster and agile at the moment of moving.

In addition, there are several details in the bone structure of Cynognathus that actually only allowed the animal to be a little slower, so those areas were what defined it as a true reptile and not as a mammal.

On the other hand, its extremities were in a quite usual position in the specimens considered as reptilian, that is, these extremities were in a floating position and totally unrelated to the structure of the specimen’s body.

This is quite an interesting fact that reinforces the theory of the animal’s low agility, a whole series of details that allow us to draw serious conclusions about the therapsid protagonist of today.

In addition to this, we can presume that its body was totally protected by an element similar to what we know today as fur, and the ears enjoyed a very well defined shape, this quality was what made it most similar to one of the animals closely linked to the dog, the wolf.

Although we must clarify and admit that in reality the Cynognathus was smaller than the wolf, it is nevertheless stated that the power and strength of this animal was much greater, due to the solid constitution that this specimen presented.