Species: Oligokyphus sp. (Oh-lee-goh-kai-fus)
What it means: Small curved animal
Other species: Oligokyphus triserialis (type), O. major, and O. lufengensis
Where I live: Arizona in the U.S.A.- The Kayenta formation
When to find me: The Early Jurassic period, about 196 million years ago.
My favorite food: Plants! I’m an herbivore.
My neighborhood: The Kayenta formation used to be a tropical floodplain, a bit like African savannah today- but no grass or flowers. Ferns cover the open plains, dotted with islands of spiky cycad groves. Rivers crisscross the land with lush tree ferns, ginkgo trees, and conifers. Every year during the wet season the plains turn into a flooded marsh, but the hottest months bring no rain, and the rivers shrink until the plains are almost as dry as the great desert that lies to the north.
A few of my neighbors: I’m surrounded by meat-eating dinosaurs like Dilophosaurus, Kayentavenator, and Coelophysis, and plant-eating dinosaurs like Sarahsaurus (an early sauropod), Scelidosaurus, and Scutellosaurus (armored dinosaurs). I have to be careful not to get stepped on, or end up as lunch for crocodile cousins that prowl the rivers and the dry land. In the sky, flying pterosaurs with long tails keep an eye out for insects like beetles, dragonflies, an ancient cousin of the moth, and something called a snakefly. While frogs and turtles swim with the fish in the river.
- I may look like a bit like a weasel, but I’m not a mammal at all! I’m part of a mammal-ish group of creatures called cynodonts. I have three brothers and sisters in the Oligokyphus family (or Oligokyphus genus, technically). The species are O. triserialis, O. major, and O. lufengensis. No one is really sure which one I am because so few fossils were found, so no one gave me a species name.
- Even though there are only a ton of teeth and a few tiny jaw fragments found in the Kayenta formation, I was actually the first Oligokyphus found, and the rest are based on my teeth!
- The words in my name are Greek! From oligos (small) + kyphos (hump, or curved back).
Numerous fragmentary remains of teeth, head, and the rest of the body are known from China (Lufeng formation), Great Britain (Windsor Hill Quarry, Pant Quarry), Germany (Exter Formation), and North America (Kayenta Formation in the U.S.A., McCoy Brook Formation in Canada). Of the Kayenta Formation, only a few isolated teeth and jaw fragments have been found of an indeterminate species.
Luo, Zhe-Xi & Sun, Ailin. (1994). Oligokyphus (Cynodontia: Tritylodontidae) from the Lower Lufeng Formation (Lower Jurassic) of Yunnan, China. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology – J VERTEBRATE PALEONTOL. 13. 477-482. 10.1080/02724634.1994.10011526.
Fedak, Tim & Sues, Hans-Dieter & Olsen, Paul. (2015). First record of the tritylodontid cynodont Oligokyphus and cynodont postcranial bones from the McCoy Brook Formation of Nova Scotia, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. 52. 150313143816000. 10.1139/cjes-2014-0220.
Hans-Dieter Sues (1985) First record of the tritylodontid Oligokyphus (Synapsida) from the Lower Jurassic of western North America, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 5:4, 328-335, DOI: 10.1080/02724634.1985.10011869
These two websites were a huge help in knowing where to start when finding research material and basic information.
“Oligokyphus.” Prehistoric wildlife, http://www.prehistoric-wildlife.com/species/o/oligokyphus.html
“Microdocodon, Oligokyphus, Tritylodon, and Kayentatherium.” Reptile Evolution, http://www.reptileevolution.com/oligokyphus.htm