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A mythical dog-headed lizard very present in the Brazilian folklore might be more than just a bedtime monster. A team of British and Brazilian scientists have unearthed the remains of an ancient animal that resembles the legendary creature.
According to the legend, Teyú Yaguá and six other monsters were the offspring of a cursed human. Because of the curse, all sons were born prematurely and severely deformed. Teyú Yaguá had the looks of a large dog-headed lizard.
A fossil with a similar looks was unearthed in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Researchers have found its skull earlier this year near the Brazilian municipality of São Francisco de Assis.
Researchers believe that the reptile has outlived 90 percent of prehistoric animals after a mass extinction triggered by a supervolcano eruption in eastern Russia. Surprisingly, the ancient reptile called Teyujagua paradoxa doesn’t share many traits with other animals believed to have been contemporary.
Its anatomy is very bizarre. It has traits of both very primitive reptiles and diverse vertebrates dubbed archosauriforms, which include dinosaurs and today’s crocodiles and birds. So apparently, Teyujagua is a distant relative of the T-rex and Brachiosaurus, but also of crocodiles and hummingbirds.
The research team explained that after the mass extinction, there were very few species left on land. So, surviving animals had plenty of space to expand in both numbers and diversity.
The team speculates that this is how archosauriforms expanded in the existing ecosystems, and thus allowed dinosaurs to roam the earth. Dr Felipe Pinheiro, one of the paleontologists involved in the find, was very excited with the discovery.
He said that ever since he put his eyes on the skull, which was then mostly covered by rock, he knew it was “something extraordinary.” But after researchers cleaned the skull in a laboratory, they were thrilled by what they saw. The weird creature had a unique combination of features that resembled no other ancient animal.
A research paper on the fossil was published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.
Nevertheless, Teyujagua is slightly different from its legendary counterpart: it didn’t have a dog’s head, it was smaller (an adult reached about 5 feet in length), and it was walking on four limbs. Plus, it had crocodile-like nostrils.
Researchers believe that the shape of its teeth may indicate that the ancient animal ate meat such as smaller reptiles and amphibians in the lakes and rivers it used to call home.
Image Source: Nacion