A very well-preserved fossil in the form of a skull has just been found by a team of paleontologists. It appears to have belonged to a reptile older than 250 million years. The astonishing discovery fills a major gap in the evolution process when ancient reptiles became modern animals.
The team found the skull last year in Brazil, but only recently managed to place it in history and finally use it to get more information on the evolutionary process. Named Teyujagua paradoxa after a creature from mythology with a dog head and a crocodile body, the fossil was dated back to 250 million years in the past. The reptile is believed to have reached a length of 5.1 feet.
Researchers from the United Kingdom and Brazil discovered the skull in the Rio Grande do Sul state, and managed to find the time of its existence after analyzing the carbon on the fossil. The reptile creature lived just after the Permian-Triassic event, often referred to as “the great dying”, which resulted in the death of ninety percent of the animals of that time.
Teyujagua paradoxa has miraculously survived the apocalypse and has continued to evolve. As more details about its life emerge, scientists are starting to fill an evolutionary gap that has been a mystery until now. Since the apocalyptic event is still quite enigmatic itself, the fossil might also shed light on the way it happened, and on the ways the ecosystem managed to recover afterwards.
The reptile creature appears to have looked like a modern crocodile, measuring 5.1 feet in length. It also featured sharp teeth and a long snout with nostrils on top of it. Richard Butler, lead study author from University of Birmingham, believes that Teyujagua paradoxa used to live in wet areas where it would hunt other animals since it was a carnivore. Its prey must have consisted of other reptiles and small amphibians.
However, the most important fact remains that the fossil is considered to be the link between ancient reptiles and the archosauriforms. Archosauriforms include a variety of species, from Brachiosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex to crocodiles and even hummingbirds. Therefore, Teyujagua paradoxa is truly the ancestor of numerous species.
The excavations on the site in Brazil will continue as scientists are hoping to find other fossils that could give them a better insight into the evolution of the species. Furthermore, the studies on the skull are also expected to release other pieces of important information.
Image Source: Ancient Origins