The discovery of a 250-million-year-old Teyujagua paradoxa fossil in Brazil has filled in a major evolutionary gap.
We recently reported that a team 0f paleontologists from the University of Birmingham in the U.K. and three Brazilian universities has uncovered a massive fossil belonging to the species Teyujagua paradoxa. According to a BBC report, scientists were shocked by the massive reptile’s skull and sharp teeth.
The discovery leads to fascinating new insights about the evolution of life on Earth. Researchers believe that the species was roughly 250 million years old, having survived a massive extinction event that erased the majority of species from the face of the Earth.
Teyujagua means “fierce lizard,” and the reptile’s fossil shows why it was one of the few survivors of the mass extinction event. It resembles some of the more primitive reptile species in the fossil record, but it has many features that make it a totally unique species.
The lizard grew roughly 1.5 meters in length, and had a mouth packed with jagged and curved teeth. It was likely a carnivore, and probably ate as many fish as it did land creatures. Its nostrils were located on the top of its skull, indicating that it spent a fair amount of time swimming.
The discovery is fascinating because Teyujagua existed at a pivotal time for species on Earth. It existed right after the Permo-Triassic mas extinction event 252 million years ago, which resulted in the loss of nearly 90 percent of all species on the planet. Researchers believe the extinction event was precipitated by a series of massive volcanic eruptions in what is now Russia, leading to a catastrophic shift in climate.
Teyujagua roamed lands that were sparsely populated, quickly gaining dominance over other species who were not quite as proficient at hunting. As Teyujagua expanded its range and diversified, it began to give rise to an important group of vertebrates called archosauriforms.
According to Dr. Richard Butler, a paleontologist from the University of Birmingham, “Archosauriforms are spectacularly and diverse and include everything from hummingbirds and crocodiles to giant dinosaurs like Tyranosaurus rex and Brachiosaurs. Teyujagua fills an evolutionary gap between archosauriforms and more primitive reptiles.”
A press release from the University of Birmingham describing the discovery can be found here.