A 250-million-year old missing link in the family tree of dinosaurs has been exhumed. It is termed Teyujagua or fierce lizard.
Less than a billion years ago, almost all the life on earth underwent a massive extinction. This event was named “The Great Dying”. However, a small skull of an old reptile has survived which might be the missing link between dinosaurs and today’s reptilian species.
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This tiny creature built a network of its own kind in the interregnum. It is from the offshoots of this animal that all the rest of the dinosaurs, birds and crocodiles came on earth. They ruled the land and sea as well as the air for the next 180 million years.
It is called Teyujagua paradoxa or fierce lizard. Discovered in the area of Southern Brazil, the creature’s fossil was studied and the findings were reported in a journal.
This reptile lived in a universe in ruins and it was fortunate to have survived the great extinction. The unearthing of this creature proves that it was a missing link between the original reptiles and the archosauriformes which include T.Rex and the hummingbird.
The bones of this animal were found by accident when one of the researchers tripped on a rock which contained them.
It was clear that a totally new species from the past had been brought out of the depths. The team of paleontologists plan on continuing the excavation at the 250 million year old site. They hope to find several more species that will solve the evolutionary puzzle.
The name of this fierce lizard, Teyujagua comes from the lingo of the ethnic Guarani group. It refers to the mythical monster Teyu Yagua which was shown in pictures as a lizard with a canine’s skull.
The anatomy of this lizard was quite different from others of its kind. It is unique and singular in its structural-functional mechanics as was observed from its fossil remains. It was extant during the Permo-Triassic Period.
The fact that 90% of the species were wiped out before this lizard got a chance to colonize the area left vacant by “The Great Dying” is of utmost significance. It was thus the ancestor that virtually repopulated the earth.
Its discovery was an exciting moment for the team of researchers. The find is one having to do with origins. Many of the species we see today originate from this fierce lizard.
Dr Felipe Pinheiro, from Universidade Federal do Pampa, São Gabriel, Rio Grande do Sul said: ‘The discovery of Teyujagua was really exciting. Ever since we saw that beautiful skull for the first time in the field, still mostly covered by rock, we knew we had something extraordinary in our hands. Back in the lab, after slowly exposing the bones, the fossil exceeded our expectations. It had a combination of features never seen before, indicating the unique position of Teyujagua in the evolutionary tree of an important group of vertebrates.’
Dr Richard Butler, from the University of Birmingham’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, said: ‘Teyujagua is a really important discovery because it helps us understand the origins of a group of vertebrates called archosauriforms. Archosauriforms are spectacularly diverse and include everything from hummingbirds and crocodiles to giant dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex and Brachiosaurus. Teyujagua fills an evolutionary gap between archosauriforms and more primitive reptiles and helps us understand how the archosauriform skull first evolved.’
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The findings of this study got published on Friday in the journal Scientific Reports.