Prehistoric amphibian terrorised early dinosaurs

If there's a fierce, car-sized creature with hundreds of teeth on your tail, there's only one thing to do: run!

24th March 2015
Prehistoric amphibian terrorised early dinosaurs © Joana Bruno

You wouldn't want to mess with this chap © Joana Bruno

If there's a fierce, car-sized creature with hundreds of teeth on your tail, there's only one thing to do: run! Palaeontologists have unearthed fossils of a new species of monster amphibian that would have given the early dinosaurs a run for their money.

The bones were found buried in an ancient lake site in Portugal, where the primitive amphibians perished when the lake dried up.

The predator, which had a flat head and razor-like teeth, lived around 220-230 million years ago, at the same time as the very first dinosaurs began to dominate.

“This new amphibian looks like something out of a bad monster movie,” says the University of Edinburgh's Dr Steve Brusatte, who led the research team. “It was as long as a small car and had hundreds of sharp teeth in its big flat head, which kind of looks like a toilet seat when the jaws snap shut. It was the type of fierce predator that the very first dinosaurs had to put up with if they strayed too close to the water, long before the glory days of T. Rex and Brachiosaurus.”

The mass extinction of these amphibians marked the end of the Triassic Period, when the supercontinent of Pangaea began to break apart and form the continents we know today. Several modern amphibians such as the frog and the newt evolved from this ancient predator, named Metoposaurus algarvensis.

“Most modern amphibians are pretty tiny and harmless," says Dr Richard Butler at the University of Birmingham, "but back in the Triassic these giant predators would have made lakes and rivers pretty scary places to be.”

The researchers hope to find many more fossils as they continue to excavate the area. So maybe there are even more fearsome creatures waiting to be discovered…

 


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