250-million-year-old reptile species discovered in Brazil

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New York, March 12 (IANS) A team of scientists has discovered a new fossil reptile that lived 250 million years ago in Brazil.

The discovery is important because the reptile lived just after the great Permo-Triassic mass extinction event that occurred 252 million years ago, the researchers noted.

This extinction wiped out about 90 percent of all species then living and was probably triggered by giant and intense volcanic eruptions in the eastern part of present day Russia.

The species has been named as Teyujagua paradoxa, derived from the language of the Guarani ethnic group and means ‘fierce lizard’. The species has been identified from a mostly complete and well-preserved fossil skull that was discovered in the beginning of 2015 by a team from the Federal University of Pampa (Unipampa).

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“The discovery of Teyujagua was really exciting. 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,” said one of the researchers Felipe Pinheiro from Unipampa.

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,’ which includes all the extinct dinosaurs and pterosaurs, along with the modern day birds and crocodiles, said the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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.

It’s 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.

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Teyujagua likely lived on the margins of lakes and rivers, hunting amphibians and procolophonids, extinct small-bodied reptiles similar to lizards, the researchers maintained.

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