Tuesday, 10 November 2015

'Fire frogs' and eel-like amphibians: The Field Museum's Brazilian fossil discovery

New aquatic carnivores reveal the spread of life on earth 278 million years ago

Date:  November 5, 2015
Source:  Field Museum

Two hundred and seventy-eight million years ago, the world was a different place. Not only were the landmasses merged into the supercontinent of Pangaea, but the land was home to ancient animals unlike anything alive today. But until now, very little information was available about what animals were present in the southern tropics. In a study published in Nature Communications, scientists from The Field Museum and colleagues from around the world describe several new amphibian species and a reptile from northeastern Brazil that help fill this key geographic gap and reveal how animals moved among regions in the supercontinent.

"Almost all of our knowledge about land animals from this time, comes from a handful of regions in North America and western Europe, which were located near the equator," said Field Museum scientist Ken Angielczyk, one of the paper's authors. "Now we finally have information about what kinds of animals were present in areas farther to the south, and their similarities and differences to the animals living near the equator."

The paper describes two new species, both archaic aquatic carnivorous amphibians. One, Timonya annae (tih-MOAN-yuh ann-AYE), was a small, fully aquatic amphibian with fangs and gills, looking something like a cross between a modern Mexican salamander and an eel. The other new species, Procuhy nazarienis (pro-KOO-ee naz-ar-ee-en-sis), an amphibian whose name in the Timbira language of its Brazilian homeland, means "fire frog." Procuhy didn't live in fire, though--it spent its whole life in water. Its name comes from the Pedra de Fogo ("Rock of Fire") Formation where it's from, so named for the presence of flint. Although both species are distant relatives of modern salamanders, they are not true frogs or salamanders, but members of an extinct group that was common during the Permian.


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