212-Million-Year-old Reptile Had Bizarre Arms

Posted: Sep 30 2016, 5:59am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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212-Million-Year-old Reptile Had Bizarre Arms
In this illustration set 212 million years ago in what is today New Mexico, a Drepanosaurus rips away tree bark with its massive claw and powerful arm. (Painting by Victor Leshyk)
  • Weird Reptile Fossil, seems to be a sort of chameleon-anteater hybrid, leaves Scientists Scratching their Heads

A weird reptile fossil has turned up which has left the scientists scratching their heads in confusion and puzzlement.

A new fossil unearthed has the scientists in a tizzy. It belongs to a species known as Drepanosaurus. It had large curved talons to dig out edible creatures from the barks of trees.

This was in a similar manner as the anteaters found in the jungles of Central and South America today. This animal completely sets the models of scientists regarding the origins and evolution of reptiles topsy turvy.

The study was published in the journal Current Biology.

The fossils were found in a site in New Mexico. This dinosaur was about the size of a domestic feline and made its home up in the higher branches of trees. Its skull was like an avian species and its body was like that of a chameleon.

However, the really strange features were its forearms. This ancient reptile had very large arms and forearms that also had some hefty muscles on them. The index finger was pretty big.

It also sported a large hook-like talon which was massive. It was larger than the other fingers. This feature was bigger than the other normal features of the Drepanosaurus.

Tetrapods are known for their forearms which are used to glide through the air, walk on the ground, dig for food and swim through the water. Yet the basic function of the forearm remained the same through 375 million years of evolution.

This forearm’s evolution followed some strict principles of change and design. Several 3D models were made of the bones of this reptile based on micro-CT scanning. The sundry fossils that were unearthed had been badly damaged. Evaluating them was thus a fool’s errand.

In the forearm you normally have two bones: the ulna and the radius. They are lengthy parallel shafts. However, the Drepanosaurus did not have these two shafts.

Therefore, this animal breaks the pattern which has been followed since eons in all sorts of animals. It is the odd one out. Modern animals that resemble it, like the anteaters, do not show this independence in features.

The Triassic Period during which it was extant was a time of intense variety and creativity in evolution. Several bizarre and offbeat trends started among the features of the life forms way back then.

The Drepanosaurus disappeared towards the end of the Triassic Period. One thing which is for sure is that it was an able digger.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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