Researchers have recently discovered details on the evolution of reptiles. Their statement is based on evidence provided by fossils of an ancient reptile with huge claws. The species was identified as Drepanosaurus and had both features of birds and reptiles.
Paleontologists discovered the fossils of the ancient reptile species in New Mexico. According to specialists, the animal must have been the size of a regular cat. However, there were some particularities about its body which determined experts to reconsider the whole history and evolution of reptiles.
The fossils indicate that the animal had a lizard-like body, while the head was similar to that of birds. On the other hand, it was the front limbs that drew the attention of researchers the most. One of the fingers of each front limb had a huge claw attached to it, and by all odds, quite sharp too.
The appearance of the animal provides researchers with some clues of its habit and behavior. The ancient reptile must have used its enormous claws to tear tree bark in search of food. Its diet must have been based on insects. Specialists also believe that Drepanosaurus lived in trees.
Another finding of the study is also related to the bone structure of the animal. It seems that the ancient reptile with huge claws had a different structure for its ulna and radius, the bones in the forearms. The strange form of the limbs of the Drepanosaurus helped the animal not only feed, but dig too.
The experts in charge of the study determined that the Drepanosaurus lived more that two hundred million years ago, in the Triassic era. However, it disappeared. Scientists suggest that no other animal displays such features. Nevertheless, there are modern mammals which are quite similar, namely anteaters. To be more specific, pygmy anteaters have similar long claws which help them dig.
Specialists Adam Pritchard was the leader of the research team. The members also succeeded in creating a 3-D reconstruction of the Drepanosaurus, in order to be able to study it more in-depth. The researchers also intend to go back to the New Mexico site because they believe that there are more fossils to be dug up. The discovery is significant because there is not much information on small-sized prehistoric animals.
More details on the ancient reptile with huge claws were published in Current Biology, on September 29.
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