Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. 24/7 Space News .




EARLY EARTH
Bumpy beast was a desert dweller
by Staff Writers
Deerfield IL (SPX) Jun 25, 2013


Artist's rendering of the pareiasaur Bunostegos, a cow-sized, plant-eating reptile that roamed the ancient central desert of Pangea over 250 million years ago. Credit: Illustration by Marc Boulay.

During the Permian era, the Earth was dominated by a single supercontinent called Pangea - "All-Earth". Animal and plant life dispersed broadly across this land, as documented by identical fossil species found on multiple modern continents. But a new study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology supports the idea that there was an isolated desert in the middle of Pangea with a fauna all its own.

Roaming this desert in what is now northern Niger was a very distinctive creature known as a pareiasaur. Pareiasaurs were large, herbivorous reptiles that were common across Pangea during the Middle and Late Permian, about 266-252 million years ago.

"Imagine a cow-sized, plant-eating reptile with a knobby skull and bony armor down its back," said lead author Linda Tsuji. The newly discovered fossils belong to the aptly-named genus Bunostegos, which means "knobby [skull] roof."

Most pareiasaurs had bony knobs on their skulls, but Bunostegos sported the largest, most bulbous ones ever discovered. In life, these were probably skin-covered horns like those on the heads of modern giraffes. Although at first blush these features seem to suggest that Bunostegos was an evolutionarily advanced pareiasaur, it also had many primitive characteristics.

Tsuji's analysis showed that Bunostegos was actually more closely related to older and more primitive pareiasaurs, leading to two conclusions: first, that its knobby noggin was the result of convergent evolution, and second, that its genealogical lineage had been isolated for millions of years.

So how do you isolate a population of cow-sized reptiles? Though there were no fences in the Permian, climatic conditions conspired to corral Bunostegos - along with several other reptiles, amphibians, and plants - and keep them constrained to the central area of the supercontinent.

"Our work supports the theory that central Pangea was climatically isolated, allowing a unique relict fauna to persist into the Late Permian," said Christian Sidor, another author of the paper. This is surprising because areas outside this central region show fossil evidence of regular faunal interchange.

Geological data also show that central Pangea was hyperarid (extremely dry), effectively discouraging some animals from passing through, while keeping those within from venturing out. The long period of isolation under these parched conditions gave Bunostegos lineage time to evolve its unique anatomical features.

Paleontologist Gabe Bever, who was not involved with the study, said "Research in these lesser-known basins is critically important for meaningful interpretation of the Permian fossil record. Our understanding of the Permian and the mass extinction that ended it depends on discovery of more fossils like the beautifully bizarre Bunostegos."

Much of what was once central Pangea remains to be explored by paleontologists. "It is important to continue research in these under-explored areas," said Tsuji. "The study of fossils from places like northern Niger paints a more comprehensive picture of the ecosystem during the Permian era."

Linda A. Tsuji, Christian A. Sidor, Sebastien Steyer, Roger M. H. Smith, Neil J. Tabor, and Oumarou Ide. 2013. The vertebrate fauna of the Upper Permian of Niger - VII. Cranial anatomy and relationships of Bunostegos akokaensis (Pareiasauria). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 33(4).

.


Related Links
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Explore The Early Earth at TerraDaily.com






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





EARLY EARTH
Oddest couple ever found
Johannesburg, South Africa (SPX) Jun 25, 2013
Synchrotron imaging reveals odd couple - 250 million years ago, a mammal forerunner and an amphibian shared a burrow. Scientists from South Africa, Australia and France have discovered a world first association while scanning a 250 million year old fossilized burrow from the Karoo Basin of South Africa. The burrow revealed two unrelated vertebrate animals nestled together and fossilized af ... read more


EARLY EARTH
Metamorphosis of Moon's Water Ice Explained

Scientists use gravity, topographic data to find unmapped moon craters

Australian team maps Moon's hidden craters

LADEE Arrives at Wallops for Moon Mission

EARLY EARTH
Mars had oxygen-rich atmosphere 4,000 million years ago

Billion-Pixel View of Mars Comes From Curiosity Rover

Study: Mars may have had ancient oxygen-rich atmosphere

Opportunity Recovers From Another Flash-Related Reset

EARLY EARTH
NASA Bill Would 'End Reliance on Russia,' Nix Asteroid Capture Project

Britain shut down UFO desk after finding no threat: files

New Zealand emerges as guinea pig for global tech firms

NASA announces eight new astronauts, half are women

EARLY EARTH
China's Shenzhou-10 spacecraft returns to Earth

Xi vows bigger stride in space exploration

Chinese astronauts manually dock spacecraft

China astronaut teaches lesson from space

EARLY EARTH
Russian cosmonauts conduct space station tasks in spacewalk

Accelerating ISS Science With Upgraded Payload Operations Integration Center

Strange Flames on the ISS

Europe's space truck docks with ISS

EARLY EARTH
New Mexico Space Grant Consortium student experiments blast into space from Spaceport America

Arianespace Soyuz Puts Four O3b Networks' Birds Into Orbit

Four O3b Network birds integrated to Arianespace Soyuz launcher

Arianespace will retain its market leadership by building on the company's flexibility and agility

EARLY EARTH
Retirement for planet-hunting space probe

Trio of 'super Earths' in a star's habitable zone

Study finds planets in habitable zone around a distant star

NASA's Hubble Uncovers Evidence of Farthest Planet Forming From its Star

EARLY EARTH
Laser can identify substances, could be military tool

Disney Research creates techniques for high quality, high resolution stereo panoramas

Cheap, color, holographic video

Crowd-funded videogame console selling fast




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement