First prize in the ugly competition

Imagine a creature built like a small tank and with the temperament of a cranky grizzly bear. The enormous mouth bristles with teeth like steak knives. It's hard to imagine how it could have closed its mouth without stabbing itself in the nose and jaw at the same time. Waddling along on huge feet and looking for all the world as though it was wearing oversized cricket gloves, this creature from hell was top dog on land 250 million years ago. It is called a gorgonopsid.

Gorgonopsids were just one of a whole zoo of very weird reptiles that had spread far and wide across the world. You might think that dinosaurs were a pretty strange-looking bunch. They had nothing on these animals, though, that ruled the world for about 100 million years, long before dinosaurs appeared on the scene. What's more, you and every mammal that's ever lived evolved from these animals.

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