It seems that a new species of reptile has just been discovered in Brazil, and this species, while quite small in comparison to the dinosaurs of later years, may have played a part in their evolution and rise to prominence in prehistoric times.
The fossilized reptile skull is about 252 million years old, and belongs to a species Brazilian and British paleontologists have called Teyujagua paradoxa. The skull is extraordinarily preserved, and is believed to have survived the “Great Dying,” a mass extinction event that killed about 90 percent of all life on Earth in the Permian-Triassic period.
Teyujagua paradoxa may have resembled present-day crocodiles, with features such as rows of serrated teeth, nostrils on top of a long snout, and a length of about five feet long. The fossil was found in Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, and was named by scientists after a mythological beast that had the head of a dog and the body of a lizard.
Researchers believe that Teyujagua may have been an ancestor of dinosaurs, bridging the gap between early reptiles and archosauriforms, which would then evolve into a wide variety of animals, including dinosaurs, crocodiles, and birds. According to researcher Richard Butler of the University of Birmingham, Teyujagua “helps us understand how the archosauriform skull first evolved.”
This is an interesting discovery on the researchers’ part as it does seem that Teyujagua still existed not long after the “Great Dying,” an event that may have been triggered by a series of volcanic eruptions. Researcher Felipe Pinheiro said that the reptile had no choice but to exist in a world where almost all forms of life were wiped out, and was thusly “part of a lucky branch of the tree of life.”
The researchers hope to push forward with more studies, and hope that the fossilized skull could help them in determining how life on planet Earth recovered following the Great Dying. They also hope to discover how Teyujagua could possibly be connected to the dinosaurs that first started appearing in the Triassic period, some 30 million years or so after the extinction event took place.