Fossils of 250-million-year-old reptile Teyujagua discovered in Brazil

Mar 14, 2016 14:14 IST

An international team of scientists have discovered 250-million-year-old new fossil of reptile, named Teyujagua (fierce lizard) from Rio Grande do Sul, southernmost Brazil.

The team comprising of scientists from three Brazilian Universities and one UK University discovered the fossil that gives insight into life just before dinosaurs appeared. It also helps in clarifying the initial evolution of the group that gave rise to dinosaurs, pterosaurs (flying reptiles), crocodiles and birds.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group) on 11 March 2016. The fossil is beautiful and fills an evolutionary gap, say scientists.

The fossil was discovered in 2015 by a team from the Paleobiology Laboratory of the Universidade Federal do Pampa (Unipampa), in a Triassic rock exposure near the city of São Francisco de Assis.

About Teyujagua

• It was a small, quadrupedal animal, and grew up to about 1.5 metres in length.

• Its teeth were re-curved with fine serrations and sharply pointed, indicating a carnivorous diet.

• The nostrils were placed on the upper part of the snout, a typical feature of some aquatic or semi-aquatic animals, such as modern day crocodiles.

• It likely lived in the margins of lakes and rivers, hunting amphibians and procolophonids, extinct, small bodied reptiles similar to lizards.

• Its anatomy is intermediate between the more primitive reptiles and a diverse and important group called 'archosauriforms'. Archosauriformes include all the extinct dinosaurs and pterosaurs, along with modern day birds and crocodiles.

• The species has been identified from a mostly complete and well preserved fossil skull that the team has named Teyujagua paradoxa.

• The reptile, named Teyujagua or fierce lizard, is the close relative of a group that gave rise to dinosaurs, crocodiles and birds.

The name Teyujagua is derived from the language of the Guarani ethnic group. The word means 'fierce lizard'. It references a mythological beast called Teyu Yagua, usually depicted as a lizard with a dog´s head.

Why its discovery is important?

Discovery of Teyujagua is important as it survived the great Permian–Triassic mass extinction event that wiped out about 90 percent of all species. The Permo-Triassic mass extinction (Great Dying or the Great Permian Extinction) occurred about 252 million years ago forming the boundary between the Permian and Triassic geologic periods, as well as the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras.

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