Carnivorous dinosaurs have a reputation as the most terrifying monsters to ever walk the face of the Earth. But tens of millions of years ago, there was another huge predator roaming the forests of South America. A recently discovered reptile, scientists have given it its name Pampafonus pikaiwas a terror of the forests 40 million years before the T-Rex's first direct ancestors.
Perfectly preserved fossils of a predator have been discovered in São Gabriel, Brazil. Paleontologists described the new species in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. The unusual fossil includes a complete skull of the animal, as well as parts of its ribs and arm bones. This is an extremely rich source of information about extinct species. Paleontologists often have to content themselves with looking for them Individual skeletal elements of extinct animals.
Pampaphonus was a cure. An ancient group of animals, including among other things: the ancestors of today's mammals. He lived just before the largest extinction event in Earth's history, which wiped out 86% of all animal species in the world. The subgroup of therapsids to which it belongs, the dinocephalians, were likely warm-blooded animals with large heads covered with distinctive appendages. These animals are known from fossils in Africa and Asia, but are rare in other parts of the world. Pampaphoneus biccai is the only species known from Brazil.
Matthews A says: Costa Santos, graduate of the Palaeontology Laboratory at the Federal University: “The fossil was found in Middle Permian rocks, in an area where there are no bones, but we often discover pleasant surprises in them.” UNIPAMPA. “Finding the Bambaphonus skull was extremely important in expanding our knowledge of an animal that had previously been difficult to distinguish from its Russian relatives.”
Paleontologists from UNIPAMPA and the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) excavated the fossils during a month of painstaking fieldwork. Because of the epidemic, it took an additional three years to thoroughly clean and examine the fossils.
“This animal must have elicited pure fear from whatever came in its way,” says the professor co-author of the discovery. Stephanie E. Pierce of the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology and Mammalogy at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. “Its discovery is key to providing insight into the structure of terrestrial ecosystems before the largest mass extinction on record. “This is an amazing discovery that demonstrates the global importance of the Brazilian fossil record.”
The new sample is just here The second Pampafonus skull discovered in South America. It is also larger than the first and provides unprecedented information about the animal's appearance thanks to the unique preservation of the bones.
“Pampaphoneus played the same ecological role as modern big cats,” Pinheiro asserts. “It was the largest known land predator from the Permian of South America. The animal had large, sharp tusks adapted for catching prey. Its teeth and the structure of its skull indicate that its bite was so powerful that the animal was able to bite through bone, similarly.” To the modern “hyenas”.
The skull of Pampaphonus described by scientists is considered the largest ever found intact. It is about 40 cm long, although researchers suspect that another fossil found earlier, which has not yet been determined to what species, could be It comes from an individual roughly twice his size.
Scientists estimate that the largest individuals of Pampaphoneus could reach almost three meters in length and weigh about 400 kilograms. The predator probably preyed on small and medium-sized animals. In the same place where the fossil was found, some of its potential victims have also been identified, such as the tiny dicynodont Rastodon and the giant amphibian Konzhukovia.
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