Fossil of gigantic ‘mammal-like’ reptile which co-existed with dinosaurs discovered in Poland

Lisowicia bojani weighed nine tonnes and was the size of an elephant

 

Harry Cockburn
Thursday 22 November 2018 20:04
Comments
The newly discovered Lisowicia bojani reveals dicynodonts - predecessors of modern mammals - grew to colossal sizes
The newly discovered Lisowicia bojani reveals dicynodonts - predecessors of modern mammals - grew to colossal sizes

The discovery of an enormous pre-historic animal, which lived during the Triassic period 200 million years ago, indicates early dinosaurs were not the only group growing to large sizes at the time.

Though dinosaurs went on to dominate the subsequent Jurassic era, a group known as therapsids, which are the ancestors of all modern mammals, thrived even before the dinosaurs’ reign.

The fossilised remains of a mammal-like reptile discovered in Poland reveal a creature which weighed nine tonnes and stood as tall as an elephant.

Scientists have identified the remains as a type of dicynodont from the therapsid group and have named the species Lisowicia bojani, after the Polish village of Lisowice close to where the fossils were found, and a German anatomist named Ludwig Heinrich Bojanus.

Dicynodonts were herbivores and their sizes ranged from small burrowing species to large browsers. Most of them were also toothless. Despite their reptilian heritage, they are the predecessors of all modern mammals, including humans.

The new species was discovered by a team from Uppsala University in Sweden and the Polish Academy of Sciences, and their findings are published in the journal Science.

“The discovery of Lisowicia changes our ideas about the latest history of dicynodonts, mammal Triassic relatives. It also raises far more questions about what really make them and dinosaurs so large," said Dr Tomasz Sulej, of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

The size of the fossil means palaeontologists will have to reassess their understanding of therapsid lineage.

Limb bones of the dicynodont found in Poland

“Dicynodonts were amazingly successful animals in the Middle and Late Triassic. Lisowicia is the youngest dicynodont and the largest non-dinosaurian terrestrial tetrapod from the Triassic,” said Dr Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki of Uppsala University.

“It's natural to want to know how dicynodonts became so large. Lisowicia is hugely exciting because it blows holes in many of our classic ideas of Triassic ‘mammal-like reptiles’.”

The first findings of fossils from Lisowice in Poland were made in 2005 by Robert Borzecki and Piotr Menducki. Since then, more than 1,000 bones and bone fragments have been collected from the area, including fossils from Lisowicia. The area is thought to have been a river deposit during the Late Triassic period.

The newly discovered Lisowicia bojani reveals dicynodonts - predecessors of modern mammals - grew to colossal sizes

The discovery of Lisowicia provides the first evidence that mammal-like elephant sized dicynodonts were present at the same time as the better-known long-necked sauropodomorph dinosaurs, contrary to previous belief.

Sauropodomorphs include species like the Diplodocus or Brachiosaurus.

The find fills a gap in the fossil record of dicynodonts and it shows that some anatomical features of limbs thought to characterise large mammals or dinosaurs also evolved in the non-mammalian synapsid.

The Polish fossils are the first substantial finds of dicynodonts from the Late Triassic in Europe.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

“The discovery of such an important new species is a once in a lifetime discovery,” said Dr Sulej.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in