Q. What Came Before Dinosaurs? A. These Permian Monsters, At Horniman Museum

Matt Brown
Dec 12, 2023 By Matt Brown
Originally Published on Aug 24, 2020
Inostrancevia and Scutosaurus at Permian Monsters exhibition
Age: 0-99
Read time: 1.6 Min

Ever wonder what came BEFORE the dinosaurs? Your kids are sure to ask you sooner or later. Better get them along to the Permian Monsters exhibition at south London’s Horniman Museum, which answers the question… with teeth.

The Horniman Museum in Forest Hill is among the best family museums in the country. It has everything from an aquarium to a sundial trail to a famous, overstuffed walrus. Now it has an exhibition about the fang-toothed creatures who preceded the dinosaurs. Like the titanophonus.


This cow-sized creature was the top predator of the time with a nightmarish dental arrangement. More placid-looking was the dimetrodon, whose sail-like back will perhaps be familiar from dinosaur books: 

Don’t call it a dinosaur, though… it’s officially a ‘non-mammalian synapsid’ and is more closely related to us mammals than to the reptiles. It died out some 40 million years before the first dinosaurs.

As did most of the Permian Monsters. Their sad fate was to be killed in a poorly understood cataclysm that shook the Earth 252 million years ago. The mass extinction, which killed 90% of all large animals, paved the way for the dinosaurs and, ultimately, us.

The Horniman Museum tells the story of the Permian era with a mix of full-size animatronic models and fossil remains. “It was a time of fearsome sabre-toothed predators, giant insects and bizarre-looking sharks,” we’re told. Immerse your family in this alien world any time from now until 3 January 2021.

Permian Monsters: Life Before the Dinosaurs is a travelling exhibition produced by Gondwana Studios.

Entrance to the Horniman Museum is free, but paid, prebooked tickets are needed for this exhibition.

Ticket deal: kids got a thing for animatronic animals? Then they’ll love Dinosaur World Live at the Drive In, north London. If you’re quick, we’ve got a 39% off deal.


London Greater London South London United Kingdom Forest Hill England

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Written by Matt Brown

Bachelor of Science specializing in Chemistry, Master of Research specializing in Biomolecular Sciences

Matt Brown picture

Matt BrownBachelor of Science specializing in Chemistry, Master of Research specializing in Biomolecular Sciences

With a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry and a Master's in Residency specializing in Biomolecular Sciences and roots in the Midlands, Matt has developed a passion for writing about London. As a former editor and prolific contributor to Londonist.com, he has authored several books exploring the city's hidden gems. In addition to his work, Matt enjoys spending time with his two preschool-aged children.

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