The finding has paleontologists buzzing about the 250-million-year-old beast, which they've dubbed the "dog-lizard."
A team of paleontologists working in Brazil has made an astonishing discovery. According to a report from the BBC, scientists were stunned when they uncovered a 250-million-year-old reptile fossil in Brazil.
The finding offers what researchers call “extraordinary” insight into life on Earth just before the emergence of dinosaurs. Scientists believe the creature roamed the Earth right after a massive extinction event that erased the majority of living species from existence.
The reptile is named Teujagua paradoxa, which translates to “fierce lizard.” Researchers say it is one of the closest cousins of the group of reptiles that led to the emergence of dinosaurs, crocodiles, and even birds. Scientists have called the discovery beautiful, and say it fills in a significant evolutionary gap.
According to Dr. Richard Butler from the University of Birmingham, “It’s very close to the ancestry of a very important group of reptiles called archosauriforms. It helps us understand how that group evolved.”
Teujagua paradoxa looked somewhat like a tiny crocodile. Researchers believe it lived around lakes and primarily ate fish. It is one of the few species to survive the mass extinction event that rocked the planet 252 million years ago. Historical geologists believe the extinction event was the result of climate changes caused by a series of massive volcanic eruptions.
With less competition from other species, the reptile and its cousins the archosauriforms spread out across the land and began a period of dominance, eventually leading to the age of the dinosaurs.
According to Dr. Felipe Pinheiro, a researcher from Universidade Federal do pampa, “The discovery of [Teujagua paradoxa] was really exciting. Ever since we saw that beautiful skull for the first time in the field, still mostly covered by rock, we knew we had something extraordinary in our hands. Back in the lab, after slowly exposing the bones, the fossil exceeded our expectations.”
A press release from the University of Birmingham describing the details of the study can be found here.