Tuesday, 17 November 2015

In Ancient Times, Salamanders Bared Their Fangs – via Herp Digest

NOV. 9, 2015, New York Times, Observatory by Sindyan N. Bhanoo 

Researchers have discovered amphibian fossils in northeastern Brazil that date back 278 million years, to the time of the supercontinent Pangaea. Until now, little was known about animal life in the southern tropical regions of the continent.

The fossils, described in the journal Nature Communications, include two new carnivorous species: Timonya annae was a small, eel-like amphibian with fangs and gills, while Procuhy nazarienis was a larger “midlevel” predator. Both species are distant relatives of modern salamanders.

“There is a longstanding question of how animals were dispersing at the time of Pangaea and how they made their way from one area to another at that time,” said Kenneth D. Angielczyk, a paleontologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and one of the study’s authors.

Based on their findings, the researchers suspect that the area where the fossils were discovered — near the city of Teresina — had a lake and wetland environment. Dr. Angielczyk and his colleagues have also found ancient sharks and fish in the area.

He and his colleagues also discovered the fossil of an amphibian about the size of a collie, whose later relatives lived in southern Africa, as well as a lizardlike reptile with relatives in North America. The reptile is the first they have found, though they have been looking for fossils in the region since 2007.

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