The Newt- a ferocious amphibian the size of a small car used to terrorize the dinosaurs.
Scientists believe the distant relative of the Salamander (Salamandrid subfamily Pleurodelinae), was one of Earth’s most feared predators. The crocodile of its day, lurked in lakes and rivers more than 200 million years ago. Scientists have found the remains of the species, Metoposaurus algarvensis, buried at the site of an ancient lake in southern Portugal.
The lake could contain several hundred of the creatures.
Dr Steve Brusatte, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led a study of Metoposaurus published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, said: “This new amphibian looks like something out of a bad monster movie.
“It was as long as a small car and had hundreds of sharp teeth in its big flat head, which kind of looks like a toilet seat when the jaws snap shut.
“It was the type of fierce predator that the very first dinosaurs had to put up with if they strayed too close to the water, long before the glory days of T. Rex and Brachiosaurus.”
The family of amphibians to which Metoposaurus belonged included other species found in parts of modern-day Africa, Europe, India and North America. All were wiped out 201 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs became extinct. This event marked the end of the Triassic Period, when the super landmass of Pangaea, which included all the world’s present-day continents, began to break apart. The extinction killed off many groups of vertebrates, including giant amphibians, clearing the way for dinosaurs to take over the Earth.
Members of the Portuguese Metoposaurus colony are thought to have died when a lake they inhabited dried up. Only a four square metre area has been excavated so far, and work is continuing in the hope of unearthing more fossils.
Co-author Dr Richard Butler, from the University of Birmingham, said: “Most modern amphibians are pretty tiny and harmless. But back in the Triassic these giant predators would have made lakes and rivers pretty scary places to be.”
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