Primo large mammal lived with dinosaurs



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An elephant-sized mammal-sized cousin who chewed plants with the beak excitedly circled the European landscape alongside dinosaurs during the Triassic Period, about 205 million to 210 million years ago, scientists say.

Scientists announced the surprising discovery in Poland of fossils of a four-legged beast called Lisowicia bojani, which demonstrated that dinosaurs were not the only giants on Earth at that time.

He also showed that the group of mammal-like reptiles to which Lisowicia belonged, called dicinodonts, did not die long ago, as previously believed.

"We think it is one of the most unexpected fossil discoveries of the Triassic of Europe," said paleontologist Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki of Uppsala University in Sweden.

Lisowicia, the largest living non-dinosaur land animal in its time, was about 4.5 meters long, 2.6 meters tall and weighed 9 tons. The only other giants of the time were the first members of the group of dinosaurs called sauropods, which had four paws, long necks and long tails.

"Lisowicia's skull and jaws were highly specialized: toothless, and the mouth was equipped with a horny beak, as in tortoises and horned dinosaurs," said Niedzwiedzki, adding that it is not clear whether he has fangs like some of his relatives.

The Triassic was the opening chapter in the dinosaur era, followed by the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The first dinosaurs appeared about 230 million years ago. Many of the earliest dinosaurs were modest in size, overshadowed by large terrestrial reptiles, including fearsome predators called rauisuchians and crocodile-like phytosaurs.

"The end of the Triassic Period was not only the moment of the rise of the dinosaurs, it was also the time when the last dininodonts decided to compete with the dinosaurs. Finally, the dinosaurs won this evolutionary competition," said paleontologist Tomasz Sulej of the Polish Academy of Dinosaurs. Institute of Paleobiology Sciences.

Dicinodontes mixed reptilian and mammalian traits. Appearing for the first time millions of years before the first mammals evolved at the end of the Triassic, these plant eaters varied in size, from small burrowers to large browsers. They became the dominant herbivores in the middle and late Triassic, but so far they were thought to have died before the dinosaurs became the dominant land animals.

The scientists unearthed about 100 bone specimens representing various Lisowicia individuals in the Polish village of Lisowice.

An analysis of the creature's limbs showed that its bones had a rapid growth rate similar to a mammal or dinosaur.

The research was published in the journal Science.

Australian Associated Press

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