Scientists have identified and named a new reptile species that appears to be even older than dinosaurs. Even though the skull of this reptile was found nearly 80 years ago, in 1940, it was only now examined by the scientists.
The reptile skull found in Big Spring, Texas is named Triopticus primus and has a lot of characteristics that match those of a dinosaur. The scientists say that the head has a thick bone and a dome-shape.
The dinosaur that presented similar features was the pachycephalosaur that appeared to have lived 90 million years ago. This dinosaur that lived in the Cretaceous Period has similarities with the reptile discovered in 1940. For instance, the internal structure of both reptile’s skulls is similar.
Paleontologists still don’t seem to reach an accord on the use of the pachycephalosaurs head. Many believe that it was for head-butting, while other tend to believe that it evolved to serve in self-defense purposes. They keep the same uncertainty for the Tropiticus head as well.
The leader of the study, Michelle Stocker, paleontologist at Virginia Tech, declared:
‘It’s difficult for us to say what the domed morphology would have been for or what would have “encouraged” the evolution of this structure.’
Convergent evolution is the appearance of similar features in species that are not related. For example, the wings of bats, birds and the reptile pterosaurs that is extinct.
Dr. Stocker also added that the Triopticus is a great example of convergent evolution because it shows the dinosaurs evolved before the Triassic Period.
Triopticus is believed to have been 3 meters long but the researchers don’t know how it walked, or what it fed on. The Triopticus lived in the Triassic Period with other animals like the Aetosaurs and Rauisuchians. These animals are the predecessors of the dinosaurs that we all know, such as the T-rex. They presented many characteristics that made the scientists believe that the dinosaurs have evolved from these reptiles that lived in the Triassic Period.
This study shows that dinosaurs were not the first to set foot on the Earth and that there were more species that are still unknown to us. The findings of the study were published in the journal Current Biology.
Do you think that this reptile specie is the predecessor of dinosaurs?
Image source: Wikipedia