ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The New Mexico Museum of Natural History says the first known example of a reptile plant eater was found in the fossil record in southern New Mexico.
The museum made the announcement this week, saying that the unique structure of the skull, jaws and teeth of the reptile supported by candles indicates that it was a herbivore, and that such specialized eating in plants was not known in reptiles with more than 200 million inhabitants. years.
Fossil bones were discovered near Alamogordo by Ethan Schuth during a field trip in the University of Oklahoma geology class in 2013. The bones were part of a primordially preserved but incomplete skeleton.
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.
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 .
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 fat Spanish word, or fat, and from the Greek word odon, or tooth, since the species had large pointed teeth at the tips of its 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," Lucas said in a statement released on Wednesday.
Gordodon was about five feet long and weighed about eight 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 say other herbivorous reptiles were not selective, chewing the plants they found. It is said that Gordodon had some of the same specializations found in modern animals as goats and deer.