Gordodon Fossil dating back 300 million years rewrites "evolutionary known timeline"



November 24, 2018 15:15:03

The "exquisitely preserved" remains of a 300-million-year-old reptile were found in the United States, rewriting "the known evolutionary chronology," says the New Mexico Museum of Natural History.

Key points:

  • The skeleton belongs to a new species of scientist named Gordodon kraineri.
  • Gordodon is derived from the fat Spanish word, or fat, and the Greek word odon, or tooth
  • It was about 1.5 meters long and weighed about 34 kilograms

The museum made the announcement this week, saying the unique structure of the reptile's skull, jaws and teeth indicates that it was a herbivore, and this type of specialized feeding was not known in reptiles over 200 million years old.

The bones were part of a "finely preserved but incomplete skeleton," the museum said in a statement.

"The skeleton is of a eupelycosaur supported by candle, a group of animals that were very successful during the Permian [Period]"said the museum.

"Eupelycosaurs include the ancestors of mammals, making this new skeleton more related to us than to dinosaurs."

Paleontology curator Spencer Lucas and his museum team determined that the bones were about 300 million years old, meaning that the reptile lived during the early part of the Permian Period, or more than 50 million years before the origin of the dinosaurs .

Dr. Lucas and associate researcher Matt Celeskey identified the skeleton as belonging to a new genus and species they called Gordodon kraineri.

Gordodon is derived from the Spanish word fat (fat) and from the Greek word odon (tooth), because the species had large pointed teeth at the tips of the jaws.

The name of the species kraineri honors Karl Krainer, an Austrian geologist who contributed to the knowledge about the Permian period in New Mexico.

"Gordodon rewrites the books, pushing back our understanding of the evolution of such a specialized herbivory in about 100 million years," said Dr. Lucas.

Gordodon was about five feet long and weighed about twenty-five pounds.

It was believed to be a selective feeder of plants with high nutrient content due to the advanced structure of his skull, jaws and teeth.

Museum experts said other herbivorous reptiles were not selective, chewing the plants they found.

They said that Gordodon had some of the same specializations found in modern animals as goats and deer.

Fossil bones were discovered near Alamogordo in southern New Mexico by Ethan Schuth during a field trip from the University of Oklahoma geology class in 2013.

Field teams spent about a year collecting the bones of the site and more time was spent removing the hard sandstone surrounding the fossils so that the research could happen.

Details of the discovery were published in the November issue of Palaeontologia Electronica.




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First published

November 24, 2018 14:35:25


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