Fossils hint prehistoric 'salamander' to be top predator 200mn years ago

Scientists have discovered fossils of a prehistoric salamander-like species, which suggest that those amphibians were one of the top predators on Earth 200 million years ago.

Fossils hint prehistoric 'salamander' to be top predator 200mn years ago

Washington: Scientists have discovered fossils of a prehistoric salamander-like species, which suggest that those amphibians were one of the top predators on Earth 200 million years ago.

The species called Metoposaurus algarvensis, whose excavating bones were found buried on the site of an ancient lake in southern Portugal, had lived during the rise of dinosaurs, and part of a wider group of primitive amphibians that were widespread at low latitudes 220-230 million years ago.

They were up to 2m in length and lived in lakes and rivers during the Late Triassic Period, living much like crocodiles do today and feeding mainly on fish, said the researchers.

The species, which is the first member of the group to be discovered in the Iberian Peninsula, were distant relatives of the salamanders of today. The discovery reveals that this group of amphibians was more geographically diverse than previously thought.

Fossil remains of species belonging to the group have been found in parts of modern day Africa, Europe, India and North America. Differences in the skull and jaw structure of the fossils found in Portugal revealed they belong to a separate species.

Dr Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said that the "amphibian looks like something out of a bad monster movie. 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 study is published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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