Giant Salamander Was One of Earth’s Top Predators Before Dinosaurs

A super salamander roamed the Earth, terrorizing early mammals
A super salamander roamed the Earth, terrorizing early mammals

A previously undiscovered species of crocodile-like amphibian that lived during the rise of dinosaurs was among Earth’s top predators more than 200 million years ago, scientists at Edinburgh University have found.

Palaeontologists identified the prehistoric species – which looked like giant salamanders – after excavating bones buried on the site of an ancient lake in southern Portugal.

The species was part of a wider group of primitive amphibians that were widespread at low latitudes 220-230 million years ago, the team says.

The creatures grew up to 2m in length and lived in lakes and rivers during the Late Triassic Period, living much like crocodiles do today and feeding mainly on fish, researchers say.

Dr Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “This new amphibian looks like something out of a bad monster movie. It was as long as a small car and had hundreds of sharp teeth in its big flat head, which kind of looks like a toilet seat when the jaws snap shut.

“It was the type of fierce predator that the very first dinosaurs had to put up with if they strayed too close to the water, long before the glory days of T. rex and Brachiosaurus.

“This ‘super salamander’ is a type of totally bizarre, otherworldly extinct animal that most people have probably never heard of.”

Dr Richard Butler, of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham, added: “Most modern amphibians are pretty tiny and harmless. But back in the Triassic these giant predators would have made lakes and rivers pretty scary places to be.”

The species – Metoposaurus algarvensis – lived at the same time as the first dinosaurs began their dominance, which lasted for over 150 million years, the team says. These primitive amphibians formed part of the ancestral stock from which modern amphibians – such as frogs and newts – evolved, researchers say.

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SOURCE: The Telegraph

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