An extinct reptile shows clear proof of dinosaurs imitating the skull and bodily forms of distant cousins.
A study showed an extinct reptile that was 230 million years old. It in fact came prior to the dinosaurs that later on ruled the earth. Called the Triopticus primus, the name of this species means “First of Three Eyes”.
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That is because the third pit in the top of its head lends the appearance of a third eye being there. A very thick skull roof is present too. In this it resembles its distant cousins in the future, the pachycephalosaur dinosaurs. They lived a 100 million years later.
Many of the other creatures, whose bones were unearthed with the Triopticus, resembled the later dinosaurs. This greatly surprised the scientists.
Triopticus is an example of a rare convergence between the relatives of dinosaurs and crocodylians and later dinosaurs. The commonality is somewhat of a shock for paleontologists.
The bodily shapes of dinosaurs actually developed a long time ago in the Triassic Period. That is 225 million years ago. Convergence is a central theme in evolutionary biology.
A bird’s wing and bat’s wing are two examples of convergence. While both are functional as flight agents, they actually evolved differently and separately.
Many other reptiles found alongside Triopticus show characteristics of later dinosaurs. These include the long snouts of Spinosaurus, the toothless beaks of ornithomimids and the armor plates of ankylosaurs.
This occurrence of convergence is an extremely rare example of such a vast cornucopia of life forms being centralized along one single pattern of design options. The view afforded from the fossil record shows an amazing array of body forms that belied the convergence between them.
The Triopticus is unique since its skull shape was copied by its much later relative which was a dome-skulled dinosaur. This species occurred a 100 million years later.
Dinosaurs are reptiles. Towards the end of the Permian Period that is 250 million years ago a mass extinction took place. After this reptiles exploded in their numbers.
They came in all sorts of sizes and shapes. Mimicry in body shape was something that took place here as the later dinosaurs showed in their physiognomies.
Many methods were used to find out more regarding these ancient species. X-ray CT scanning was one chief means of examining these fossils from the past. Peering into the skull of the Triopticus via an X-ray CT scan yielded a ton of data that the scientists used to put two and two together.
This study got published in the journal Current Biology.