A ‘super salamander’ the size of a car with its head shaped like a toilet seat was one of Earth’s top predators more than 200 million years ago, scientists have discovered.
The previously unknown species of crocodile-like amphibian was found after its bones were exacvated on the site of an ancient lake in southern Portugal.
“This new amphibian is like something out of a poor quality monster movie. It was as long as a car and had hundreds of very sharp teeth in its flat head, which reminds of a toilet seat when the jaws are closed,” said Dr Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who the lead researcher in the study.
“It was a terrific predator that lived near water, long before the days of T rex and Brachiosaurus,” Brusatte added.
According to the research, the newly discovered species was part of a larger group of primitive amphibians that were very common at low latitudes 220-230 million years ago. The animals grew up to two meters long and lived in rivers and lakes during the Late Triassic Period. They were very similar to today’s crocodiles do today and fed mostly with fish, scientists said.
The species is called Metoposaurus algarvensis. It lived at the same time as the first dinosaurs began to emerge, a period which lasted for over 150 million years.
These amphibians are part of the ancestral set from which modern amphibians, like frogs and crocodiles, evolved. Scientists explained that the species were distant relatives of the salamanders of today. The discovery shows that this group of amphibians lived in more diverse areas than previously thought.
This species is the first of its kind to be discovered in the Iberian Peninsula.
The ancient salamander was discovered in a large deposit of bones, the place where several hundred of the creatures may have died when the lake they lived in dried up. Only around 4 square metres, a small fraction of the site, has been excavated until now.Most members of the group of these amphibians died out during a mass extinction which happened 201 million years ago, before the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
According to the study which was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the extinction targeted many vertebrates, like big amphibians, which eased the way for dinosaurs to become dominant.
Image Source: Capital OTC