Credit: Diane Scott
A group of ancient, agile predators called varanopids were huge evolutionary successes.
ScienceDaily — A species of ancient predator with saw-like teeth, sleek bodies and a voracious appetite for meat survived a major extinction at a time when the distant relatives of mammals ruled Earth.
A detailed description of a fossil that scientists identify as a varanopid "pelycosaur" is published in the December issue of Naturwissenschaften -- The Science of Nature. Professors Sean Modesto from Cape Breton University, and Robert Reisz from the University of Toronto Mississauga, provide evidence that a group of ancient, agile predators called varanopids survived for more than 35 million years, and co-existed with more advanced animals.
Modesto and the team performed a detailed examination of the partial skull and jaw of the youngest known primitive mammal-like animal, which they believe lived over 260 million years ago in the Permian Period. The fossils are from rocks forming the Pristerognathus Assemblage Zone of the Beaufort Group in South Africa.
"These animals were the most agile predators of their time, sleek-looking when compared to their contemporaries," says Reisz. "They seem to have survived a major change in the terrestrial fauna that occurred during the Middle Permian, a poorly understood extinction event in the history of life on land."
According to Modesto, "These ancient animals really looked like modern goannas or monitor lizards, but are actually more closely related to mammals." Keep on reading...