Scientists Discover New Species of Archosaur
Scientists have recently announced the discovery of a new species of archosaur, a reptile that lived around 235 to 240 million years ago during the Triassic Period. The creature, named Mambachiton fiandohana, had a combination of crocodilian and dinosaur-like features and provides valuable insights into the evolution of these ancient reptiles.
What are Archosaurs?
Archosaurs are a diverse group of creatures that can be traced back to the Middle Triassic Period, which began approximately 246 million years ago. This group is divided into two major branches: one branch evolved to include birds, non-bird dinosaurs, and pterosaurs, while the other branch includes crocodilians.
Only about 15 specimens of creatures that predate dinosaurs and crocodiles have been found in the fossil record to date, with most of them discovered in the past two decades. The newly described Mambachiton fiandohana specimen was found in southern Madagascar.
The Discovery of Mambachiton fiandohana
The first fossils of Mambachiton fiandohana were actually discovered in the late 1990s by John Flynn, a fossil curator at the American Museum of Natural History. However, it took some time for researchers to fully unearth and identify all the fossils from the specimen. The initial dig was primarily focused on ancient mammal fossils, so the archosaur fossils were initially overlooked.
Eventually, paleobiologist Sterling Nesbitt and his colleagues determined that the various bones, despite being scattered over a large area, belonged to the same individual based on their consistent size and the absence of duplicated fossils. Their findings were recently published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
Characteristics of Mambachiton fiandohana
Mambachiton fiandohana would have been approximately the size of a golden retriever but with a more slender build. It measured around three meters in length from snout to tail base, with a distance of less than a foot separating its torso from the ground as it walked.
Nesbitt describes the creature as resembling a crocodile on stilts, with a lean and agile appearance. It shares similarities with another archosaur called Teleocrater, which was described a few years ago.
Is Mambachiton fiandohana a Dinosaur?
Unlike most early dinosaurs, Mambachiton fiandohana had armored plates along its spine, a feature more commonly associated with crocodilians. However, Nesbitt suggests that the creature is closer to dinosaurs and pterosaurs than crocodilians. The pelvis and muscle scars on the femur resemble those of dinosaurs and pterosaurs more closely, placing the specimen on the dinosaur side of the archosaur family tree.
According to Nesbitt, these subtle differences between species are expected as more fossils are discovered, providing a more nuanced understanding of the evolution of archosaurs.
The discovery of Mambachiton fiandohana sheds light on the diversity and evolution of archosaurs during the Triassic Period. This newfound species, with its combination of crocodilian and dinosaur-like characteristics, offers valuable insights into the common ancestors of these ancient reptiles. As researchers continue to uncover more fossils, our understanding of archosaur evolution and the origins of dinosaurs and crocodiles will continue to evolve.
- Mambachiton fiandohana is a newly discovered species of archosaur.
- It lived around 235 to 240 million years ago during the Triassic Period.
- The creature had a combination of crocodilian and dinosaur-like features.
- It is closer to dinosaurs and pterosaurs than crocodilians.
- The discovery provides insights into the evolution of archosaurs.