Car-Sized Super Salamander Lived 200 Million Years Ago

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Paleontologists from the University of Edinburgh announced on Tuesday that they had discovered fossil remains of an unknown species of “super salamander” that were as big as a small car and were among the top predators in the wet, swampy environment 200 million years ago in southern Portugal. Researchers noted that several specimens more than two meters in length were found in an ancient lake bed.

The study was published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, and was funded by several organizations including the German Research Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

More on ancient super salamander

Palaeontologists excavated the fossilized bones from the site of an ancient lake in southern Portugal.

Of note, the species was part of a wider group of primitive amphibians that were widespread at low latitudes 220-230 million years ago. The species, which has been named Metoposaurus algarvensis were alive at the beginning of the age of dinosaurs. These early amphibians are the ancestors from which modern amphibians evolved.

The research team noted that the new super salamanders were distant relatives of modern salamanders. The find shows that these amphibians were more geographically dispersed than believed earlier. They also note that Metoposaurus algarvensis is the first member of the group to be found in the Iberian Peninsula.

The new species was found in a huge bed of bones where several hundred of the creatures likely died when the lake they inhabited dried up, according to the researchers. Just square meters of the site have been excavated so far, and work will continue for some time.

Most giant salamander-like amphibians died off during a mass extinction 200 million years ago. This marked the end of the Triassic Period, when the supercontinent of Pangea – which included all the world’s present-day continents – began to break apart. Dinosaurs were just coming onto the scene in the late Triassic.

Lead researcher Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh noted that the new species, which had hundreds of small, sharp teeth, is “weird compared to anything today.”

Statement from expert on early amphibians at the London Natural History Museum

Andrew Milner, an academic specializing in prehistoric amphibians at the Natural History Museum in London (not a part of the study), commented that the new find “is another piece of the picture.” The Portuguese site has “very good potential to give us more and different types of animals” from the Upper Triassic period, he continued.

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