Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Antarctic Parotosuchus fossil

The fossilised remains of an amphibian which lived more than 245 million years ago have been found in Antarctica, suggesting that the climate during much of the Triassic era was remarkably balmy.

The 60-centimetre (24-inch) piece of skull was teased out of thick sandstone at Fremouw Peak in the Transantarctic Mountains, just six degrees short of the South Pole.

Palaeontologists in Europe and the United States have identified the beast as a Parotosuchus, a two-metre-long (6.5-feet) giant salamander-like predator that lived 40 million years before the first dinosaurs, inhabiting lakes and rivers.

A member of the Temnospondyl group, Parotosuchus was covered in a scaly skin, unlike the smooth skin of modern-day amphibians, and probably moved with an eel-like motion in the water.

Previous Parotosuchus remains have been found in Germany, Kazakhstan, Russia and South Africa -- until now the most southerly part of their range.

I have to wonder if there are some reptilomorphs (forms?) that were sea going critters that would return to freshwater to spawn. It's an interesting answer to why the reptiles didn't take to the sea until the Triassic: there was too much competition for the transitional forms from those in the niches already until the PT Extinction. Probably not the case though.

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