Reptile remains fill in fossil record | Science News

ADVERTISEMENT

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


News

Reptile remains fill in fossil record

By
7:42pm, October 13, 2003

The fossil remains of a sphenodontian, an ancient, lizardlike reptile, are helping span a 120-million-year data gap between its ancestors and today's tuatara, which are the sole survivors of a once prominent group.

Sphenodontians evolved around the same time that dinosaurs did, about 235 million years ago. Sphenodontians flourished until 120 million years ago, when they disappeared from the fossil record known until now, says Fernando E. Novas, a paleontologist at the Argentine Museum of Natural History in Buenos Aires. Many scientists thought that sphenodontians declined in response to competition from lizards, their supposed ecological successors. However, the newly discovered 90-million-year-old fossils–unearthed in northwestern Patagonia and described in the Oct. 9 Nature–suggest that sphenodontians thrived for much longer than previously had been suspected.

Adult members of the newly described species dominated their ecosystem and measured up t

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content