The time is the Upper Permian-about 235 million years ago-and life is hard. A hippopotamus-sized tapinocephalid has been cornered by three predatory gorgonopsians. which in turn must defend themselves and their prey from the approaching anteosauricl. . . . All of these improbable beasts are synapsids. bizarre creatures that eventually gave rise to our own class, the mammals (whose humble ancestor hides in the foliage to the left) . These curious reptile like animals were evolution's first-and very successful-experiment with large-animal life on land. In fact, synapsids managed to rule the earth for almost 100 million years before they were finally displaced by the dinosaurs. In this lively and beautifully illustrated recreation of the rise and fall of the synapsid line, author/illustrator John C. McLoughlin explores the workings of ecology and evolution and, ultimately, the origins of the human mind itself.