Australian paleontologists from the University of New South Wales in Sydney and the Australian Museum jointly conducted a study that identified and described a previously unknown species of giant amphibian. This creature inhabited the Earth long before the appearance of dinosaurs and coexisted with lizards for a long time. Fossilized remains of this amphibian were found back in the 1990s, but only now it was possible to identify and describe this unique species. The study was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The fossil, which was named Arenaerpeton supinatus, was found in rocks cut in a nearby quarry. Interestingly, these rocks were intended for the construction of a garden wall, which is reflected in the very name of the new species. The fossil is estimated to be about 240 million years old.
Dr. Lalan Hart, one of the scientists who conducted the study, notes that this fossil is a unique example of a group of extinct animals known as temnospondyls. They lived before and during the time of the dinosaurs. What makes this find special is that almost the entire skeleton of the amphibian is preserved, and the skin and soft tissues are also partially preserved. This is a rarity for such finds, as soft tissues hundreds of millions of years old very rarely fall into the hands of paleontologists.
The researchers suggest that representatives of the species Arenaerpeton supinatus lived in freshwater rivers, where the Sydney Basin now stands. They hunted other river dwellers and could swim and move freely on land. Externally, these creatures were very similar to the modern Chinese giant salamander, especially in the shape of the head. However, the size of the ribs and soft tissue outlines preserved on the fossil show that Arenaerpeton supinatus was much larger than its modern descendants.
Scientists estimate that this giant amphibian may have been up to 1.2 meters long. Most other closely related animals that lived at the same time were much smaller. Darkospondyls managed to survive two mass species extinctions, with the last of them disappearing about 120 million years ago.
This finding allows scientists to better understand the history of animal life on Earth and the role of giant amphibians in it. It also supports the theory that amphibians were among the first inhabitants of land and existed long before the dinosaurs.