Scientists have discovered the fossils of an enormous mammal-like reptile that roamed the Earth 210 million years ago and weighed 9,000 kg (19,841 lb.), making it the most large non-dinosaur on all fours to have inhabited the Triassic. .
The fossils also provide one of the last known examples of giant herbivore, suggesting that this mammalian ancestor was able to survive the time when dinosaurs had become dominant.
By publishing in the influential journal Science, the team of Swedish and Polish paleontologists reports that the fossils they excavated belong to a species not yet discovered, which they named Lisowicia bojani (after the Polish village in which they were found).
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the Lisowicia bojani belongs to a group of prehistoric animals called dicynodonts, herbivorous reptiles that walked on all fours and shared many of the traits of their distant ancestors: the mammals that inhabit the Earth today (including humans).
Previously, it was believed that the group of dicynodonts had appeared about 252 million years ago and had begun to disappear in the Upper Triassic (about 220 million years ago), when dinosaurs began to become the dominant group.
However, the team was able to date the new fossils discovered between 210 and 205 million years ago, 10 million years less than previously discovered dicynodont samples.
Interestingly, the fossils discovered by the team belong to an animal weighing about 9,000 kg, measuring 4.5 meters long and 2.5 meters high.
Not only is this dicynodont of 40% heavier than all the dicynodonts found before, but as Dr. Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki of the University of Uppsala explains, Lisowicia bojani in the same league as the dinosaurs.
"Dicynodonts were amazingly successful animals in the middle and upper Triassic," he says.
"Lisowicia is the youngest dicynodon and largest non-dinosaur terrestrial tetrapod of the Triassic.It is natural to want to know how dicynodontes have become so large.Lisowicia is extremely exciting because it destroys many of our classic ideas of the Triassic-style mammal & Reptiles. "
Started for the first time in 2005, but only today, the excavations of the Lisowicia bojani in Poland reveals for the first time that mammalian-like dicynodontes lived at the same time as the sauropodomorphs group, which includes the Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus species.
And for those who are interested in evolution, the excavations also prove that some anatomical features of mammals, such as straight limbs, were also present in dicynodonts and other similar herbivorous reptiles.
It is therefore an important discovery that requires prehistorians and paleontologists to revise their theories about the triassic period and the evolution of mammals.
Tomasz Sulej, co-author, concludes: "The discovery of such an important new species is a unique discovery in a lifetime."
This story originally appeared in The Sun.