Tiny but feisty prehistoric wesserpeton amphibian discovered
A tiny but feisty species of amphibian that lived in the shadows of dinosaurs has been discovered by scientists.
The discovery of the wesserpeton fills a gap in the evolutionary history of a now-extinct group, the albanerpetontids, according to researchers at the University of Portsmouth.
The amphibian, nicknamed "Wessie", was about the size of a small, modern-day newt and unlike most amphibians, albanerpetontids had a scaly skin and eyelids, showing that they spent most of their time on land. Details of the skeleton also suggest that they were well adapted to burrowing.
The creature lived on the Isle of Wight, which has gained the nickname Dinosaur Island because of the number of fossils found there, about 130 million years ago during the early cretaceous period, at the same time as dinosaurs such as neovenator, iguanodon and giant, long-necked sauropods.
The researchers believe that broken but healed jaws among the bones suggest Wessie was a feisty creature. Like some modern-day salamanders, it probably engaged in fierce battles for mates and territory and sharp chisel-like teeth indicate that it was a predator.
Steve Sweetman, of the university's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said: "When I started looking for the little animals that lived with the dinosaurs, a Wessie jaw was the first thing I found and I can still remember how excited I was. I also remember thinking that 'albanerpetontid' was a heck of a mouthful for such a tiny creature.
"Of the 50 or so new four-legged animals I have now found, Wessie bones are the most common and it was clearly well adapted to the ancient floodplain environment in which it lived."
The researchers have no complete skeletons of Wessie but they have a large number of isolated bones representing almost all parts of the animal.
Dr Sweetman and his co-author, Jim Gardner of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Canada, named the animal wesserpeton because its bones come from rocks known as the Wessex Formation.
The discovery of Wessie neatly fills an evolutionary gap. Albanerpetontids are first found in rocks of middle jurassic age and their last occurrence is in the late pliocene.
During this period of more than 165 million years, skull bones known as frontals gradually changed from bell-shaped to triangular. Until now, part of this transition was missing from the fossil record.
Dr Sweetman said: "Until the discovery of wesserpeton, there appeared to be an abrupt transition from the more primitive elongated and bell-shaped frontals of the early albanerpetontids to the triangle-shaped frontals of later forms. The frontals of wesserpeton are elongated but they are also triangular, neatly filling the gap between the two."
The discovery is published online in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.
Kielder Forest considered as site for return of wild lynx to the UK after 1,300 year absence
Frilled shark: Australian fishermen capture terrifying shark from the deep
Humanity's 'inexorable' population growth is so rapid that even a global catastrophe would not stop it
Melting ice could cause gravity shift
Have you heard 'the hum'? Mystery of Earth's low droning noise could now be solved
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...
£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...