Paleontologists discover 250-million-year-old new species of reptile in Brazil
|Life drawing of Teyujagua Paradoxa |
[Credit: Voltaire Neto]
The name Teyujagua comes from the language of the Guarani ethnic group and means 'fierce lizard'. It references a mythological beast called Teyú Yaguá, usually depicted as a lizard with a dog´s head. Teyujagua is very different from other fossils from the same age. Its anatomy is intermediate between the more primitive reptiles and a diverse and important group called 'archosauriforms'. Archosauriformes include all the extinct dinosaurs and pterosaurs, along with modern day birds and crocodiles.
The discovery of Teyujagua is important because it lived just after the great Permo-Triassic mass extinction event that occurred 252 million years ago. This extinction wiped out about 90 per cent of all species then living and was probably triggered by giant and intense volcanic eruptions in the eastern part of what is now Russia.
|Photographs and interpretative drawings of the skull |
[Credit: Dr. Felipe Pinheiro et al.]
Teyujagua was a small, quadrupedal animal, and grew up to about 1.5 metres in length. Its teeth were recurved with fine serrations and sharply pointed, indicating a carnivorous diet. The nostrils were placed on the upper part of the snout, a typical feature of some aquatic or semi-aquatic animals, such as modern day crocodiles. Teyujagua likely lived in the margins of lakes and rivers, hunting amphibians and procolophonids, extinct, small bodied reptiles similar to lizards.
Dr Felipe Pinheiro, from Universidade Federal do Pampa, São Gabriel, Rio Grande do Sul said: 'The discovery of Teyujagua 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. It had a combination of features never seen before, indicating the unique position of Teyujagua in the evolutionary tree of an important group of vertebrates.'
|Details of the reptile's skull [Credit: Dr. Felipe Pinheiro et al.]|
Excavations in the site where Teyujagua was found are still ongoing, with more promising fossil materials being found. These new discoveries will certainly provide new insights into the nature of terrestrial ecosystems just before the appearance of the first dinosaurs, as well as the patterns of faunal recovery after major extinction events.
Source: University of Birmingham [March 11, 2016]