Scientists have uncovered the oldest evidence of “slingshot” blades, in fossils of 99m-year-old amphibians.
The prehistoric armored creatures, called albanerpetontids, were sitting and waiting predators, grabbing their prey by shooting their “ballistic blades”.
Although they had lizard-like claws, scales and tails, the analysis indicated that albanerpetontids were amphibians, not reptiles, the team said.
They believe that the findings, published in Science, have redefined how to feed tiny animals. Albanerpetontids were previously considered to be underground burrowing species.
“This discovery adds a great addition to the puzzle,” said Edward Stanley, co-author of the study and director of the Florida Museum of Natural History̵7;s digital proliferation and discovery laboratory. about this confusing group of strange little animals. Knowing they have this ballistic blade gives us a whole new understanding of this entire lineage. “
Amphibians today are represented by three distinct lineages: frogs, salamanders and unspecified caecilian animals. Researchers have said that until two years ago there was a fourth line, albanerpetontids, which was at least 165 million years old.
However, Susan Evans, another co-author of the study and professor of morphology and vertebrate paleontology at University College London, says the lineage may be much more ancient, possibly catching. Source from over 250 million years ago.
“If the earliest albanerpetontids had a ballistic blade, this feature would have outlived the earliest chameleon, possibly as early as 120 million years ago,” she said.
Fossils of tiny creatures have been discovered in Myanmar, trapped in amber, and a specimen found in a “mint condition” gave researchers the opportunity to examine details.
The fossil represents a new species of albanerpetontid, which is named Yaksha perettii, about 5cm long without tail.
“We envision this as a solid little thing in the leaf layer, well hidden, but sometimes flies fly out, stick out their tongue and grab it,” Evans said.
Another fossil, a small juvenile that was previously misidentified as a chameleon because of its “confusing feature”, also shares similar characteristics with albanerpetontids – such as claws, scales, and large eye sockets and bullet blade.
Evans said revealing that the release-edged albanerpetontids helped explain some of their “weird and wonderful” traits, such as their unusual jaw and neck joints and the wide forward-looking eyes that are common predators.
The animals may have breathed completely through the skin, as some salamanders do, she added.
Despite these findings, the researchers say how albanerpetontids are fitted in the amphibian family remains a mystery.
“Theoretically, albanerpetontids could give us a clue to what the ancestors of modern amphibians looked like,” Evans said. Unfortunately, they were so specialized and so weird in their own way that they didn’t help us that much. ”