New species of prehistoric reptile related to crocodiles found in village dig
A new species of aetosaur, a prehistoric reptile resembling today's crocodiles, has been discovered in south-western Poland.
The specimen was found among fossils of vertebrates from about 210 million years ago, including lungfish and turtles, excavated at the archeological site in the town of Kocury.
The discovery was made by a team of scientists from the Institute of Paleobiology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Faculty of Biology of the University of Warsaw.
Researchers managed to find the jawbone and fragments of the carapace of the new aetosaur, which was named Kocurypelta silvestris.
Łukasz Czepiński from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Warsaw told PAP that the reptile has an unusual structure of the jaw.
"The (jaw) bone is characteristic, because our aetosaur had very few teeth, and the ones it had were shifted towards the front of the skull. We do not recognise this feature in other aetosaurs, most of them have a jaw full of teeth," he said.
Aetosaurs are reptiles closely related to the present day crocodiles. The were covered with carapace. Their skulls ended with a snout, similar to that of today's wild boar.
"They looked like a cross between a crocodile, an armadillo and a wild boar... they were about three metres long. Most of them were omnivorous, they ate plants, small invertebrates, but also plant rhizomes", Czepiński said.
The first bone of a carnivorous dinosaur found in modern Poland, also comes from the historic site in Kocury. It was discovered in 1932 but then the site was forgotten for nearly 100 years until scientists from the University of Warsaw decided to return to it in 2012.
Apart from the new species of aetosaur they excavated fossils of late Triassic vertebrates including fragments of the shell of one of the world's oldest turtles and the tooth plate of a large-sized prehistoric lungfish. All the animals likely lived at the same time.