Previously unknown extinct species had large teeth on roof of mouth

September 12th, 2008 - 1:11 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, September 12 (ANI): Paleontologists have found a previously unknown extinct amphibious predator species in Antarctica that had large teeth on the roof of its mouth.

The species, named Kryostega collinsoni, is a temnospondyl, a prehistoric amphibian distantly related to modern salamanders and frogs.

K. collinsoni resembled a modern crocodile, and probably was about 15 feet in length with a long and wide skull even flatter than a crocodiles.

In addition to large upper and lower teeth at the edge of the mouth, temnospondyls often had tiny teeth on the roof of the palate. However, fossil evidence shows the teeth on the roof of the mouth of the newly found species were probably as large as those at the edge of the mouth.

Its teeth, compared to other amphibians, were just enormous. It leads us to believe this animal was a predator taking down large prey, said Christian Sidor, a University of Washington (UW) associate professor of biology and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the UW.

The scientists worked from a fossilized piece of the snout of K. collinsoni, analyzing structures present in more complete skulls for other temnospondyl species that had similar size characteristics.

The anatomy of the snout tells us what major group of amphibian this fossil belonged to, Sidor said.

The shaded area at the snout represents the size of the K. collinsoni fossil found in 1986, compared with the estimated actual head size.

Teeth at the edge of the mouth, as well as on the palate roof, were clearly visible, and the presence of structures similar to those that allow fish and amphibians to sense changes in water pressure led the researchers to conclude that the species was aquatic.

The fossilized piece of snout also contains a nostril, which aided the scientists in judging proportions of the head when comparing it to other fossils. They estimated the skull was about 2.75 feet long and perhaps 2 feet across at its widest point.

Kryostega was the largest animal in Antarctica during the Triassic, Sidor said.

The term Kryostega translates to frozen and roof, which refer to the top of the skull.

At the time K. collinsoni was living, all the worlds land was massed into a giant continent called Pangea. The area of Antarctica where the fossil was found was near what is now the Karoo Basin of South Africa, one of the richest fossil depositories on Earth. (ANI)

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