An extinct reptile that lived among dinosaurs 150 million years ago has been unearthed in the badlands of Wyoming.
The tiny creature shines a light on the New Zealand Tuatara, the last living member of a group that has been almost entirely supplanted by lizards.
About 6 inches long from nose to tail, the “miniature version” would fit curled up in the palm of your hand. He nibbled on insects – including beetles and primitive water bugs. appointed Opisthiamimus gregoriits fossilized remains were buried in the rocks of a river floodplain dating to the Upper Jurassic.
Lead author Dr. Matthew Carrano, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, said: “What’s important about the Tuatara is that it represents this huge evolutionary story that we have the chance to capture in what is probably its final act,” adding that “even though it looks like a relatively simple lizard, it embodies a whole evolutionary epic stretching back over 200 million years.”
It is a mystery why Tuatara became extinct as lizards and snakes replaced them as common reptiles across the world.
opisthiamimus has been added to the collections of the Smithsonian Museum where it will remain available for future study. This may help researchers understand why the tuatara is all that remains of the Rhynchocephalus, as lizards spread around the planet.
“These animals may have gone extinct partly because of competition from lizards, but possibly also because of global climate change and shifting habitats,” Carrano said.
“It’s fascinating when the dominance of one group gives way to another group during evolution, and we still need more evidence to explain exactly what happened, but fossils like this these are the way we’re going to put it together.”
The fossil is almost entirely complete except for the tail and parts of the hind legs. Its skeleton is rare for small prehistoric creatures. Their frail bones were often destroyed either before they fossilized or when they emerged from an eroding rock formation in modern times.
Accordingly, Rhynchocephali are best known to paleontologists from small fragments of their jaws and teeth.
Co-author David DeMar, associate researcher, said: “Such a complete specimen has enormous potential for making comparisons with fossils collected in the future and for identifying or reclassifying specimens already sitting somewhere in a museum drawer. .
“With the 3D models we have, at some point we could also do studies using software to look at the mechanics of this creature’s jaw,” DeMar said.
opisthiamimus is described in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.
The researchers named the new species after museum volunteer Joseph Gregor.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker.
This story was provided to Pleasemynews by Zenger News.