Cistecephalus was a small, specialised, burrowing dicynodont, a kind of reptilian mole. The head is flattened and wedge-shaped, the body short, and the forelimbs very strong, with similarities in structure to the forelimb of modern burrowing mammals.

It was one of the first genera of dicynodonts to be described, by Richard Owen, in 1876.

Cistecephalus is so far known from the Cistecephalus assemblage zone of the South African Karoo, as well as from Zambia and India. A very similar genus, Kawingasaurus, is known from the Kawinga Formation of Tanzania, which is probably equivalent in age to the Cistecephalus zone.

Cistecephalus was about 33 cm in length.


  • Cox, B., Savage, R.J.G., Gardiner, B., Harrison, C. and Palmer, D. (1988) The Marshall illustrated encyclopedia of dinosaurs & prehistoric animals, 2nd Edition, Marshall Publishing
  • King, Gillian M., 1990, the Dicynodonts: A Study in Palaeobiology, Chapman and Hall, London and New York

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