Researchers Discover New Reptile Species Dating Back to the Triassic Period

Researchers found the fossils of a new reptile species that was alive during the Triassic period.
Donna Fuscaldo
Paleontologist working on a fossil benedek/iStock

Researchers at Midwestern University recently discovered a new reptile species dating back to the Triassic period in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. 

In a report published this week in Scientific Reports, researchers described Clevosaurus hadroprodon, a new reptile species discovered in Brazil. The species fossils include jaws and skull bones. They were collected from Triassic rocks which are between 237 million and 228 million years old. Its the oldest fossil found in Gondwana, which was the southern supercontinent that became Africa, Antartica, Australia, India, and South America. 


New species the size of a gecko 

Similar in size to a gecko, the Clevosaurus hadroprodon belongs to the Sphenodontia, which is a group of lepidosaurs that includes snakes, lizards, and amphisbaenians that were common during the Age of the Dinosaurs. Based on the fossils researchers said the species has a mix of primitive and derived teeth. The reptile had largely "simple and blade-like" teeth as well as teeth fused to the top of the jawbones. The blade-like teeth are different from slightly younger Clevoasuarus species that had well-developed side-to-side expansions of teeth for tough chewing, the researchers found. 

Teeth of the Clevosaurus hadroprodon unique 

"Clevosaurus hadroprodon is an important discovery because it combines a relatively primitive sphenodontian-type tooth row with the presence of massive tusk-like teeth that were possibly not for feeding, but rather used for mate competition or defense. If correct, this means that non-feeding dental specializations predated changes in the sphenodontian dentition related to feeding strategies. This is a very exciting discovery." said co-author Randall Nydam, Professor at Midwestern University in a report announcing the findings. The researchers said the discovery will aid in better understanding the evolution of small reptiles. 

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The discovery of the Clevosaurus hadroprodon is just the latest remains of a dinosaur species discovered in recent weeks. In mid-July, scientists discovered the complete skull of a duck-billed dinosaur at Big Bend National Park, in Texas. The discovery was detailed in a recent edition of the  Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, with researchers naming the new dinosaur an Aquilarhinus palimentus. It was named for its aquiline nose and wide lower jaw that's shaped like two trowels laid out side by side. 

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