A new fossil from Brazil hints at the origin of the mysterious reptiles tanystropheid

Life restoration of Elessaurus gondwanoccidens from the Sanga do Cabral Formation (Lower Triassic), Brazil. Courtesy: Marcio L. Castro.

According to a study published on April 8, 2020 in an open access journal, a new species of Triassic reptiles from Brazil is a close relative of a mysterious group called tanistrophaeids. Plos on Tiana De Oliviera of the Federal University of Santa Maria, Brazil, and colleagues.

After the mass extinction in Perm 250 million years ago, reptiles captured global ecosystems. Among the early groups to appear after this extinction event there were tanystropheids, a group of animals with a long neck, whose lifestyle is still mysterious, but which, nevertheless, were successful in the Triassic period. However, the early evolution of this group is poorly understood, as their remains are very rare from the Early Triassic.

In this study, De Olivier and colleagues describe a new reptile specimen from the Early Triassic species of the Sanga do Cabral Suite in southern Brazil. A comparison of the skeleton shows that this sample, known from the remains of the hind leg, pelvis, and tail, is the closest known relative of the tanistrophaeids. Researchers identified these remains as belonging to a new species that they named Elessaurus gondwanoccidens, The name comes in part from the elven name (Elessar) of the character from The Lord of the Rings, also known as Aragorn or Strider, chosen as a reference to the long legs of a fossil animal.

Most tanystropheid fossils are found in the Middle and Late Triassic rocks of Europe, Asia, and North America, and often in marine sediments. Availability Elessaurus in the continental sediments of the Early Triassic, South America suggests that the origin of this group may lie on the southern continents, and that their ancestors may have lived on land before later species adapted to aquatic life. A clearer picture of the group's origin will be based on rarer fossils from this early period of their development.

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Additional Information:
De-OliveiraTM, Pinheiro FL, Stock Da-Rosa ÁA, Dias-Da-Silva S, Kerber L (2020). The new archosauromorph from South America gives an idea of ​​the early diversification of the Tanestrophaeids. ONCE 15 (4): e0230890. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0230890

New fossils from Brazil hint at the origin of the mysterious tanystropheid reptiles (2020, April 8)
restored April 8, 2020
from https://phys.org/news/2020-04-fossil-brazil-hints-mysterious-tanystropheid.html

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