Paleontologists find reptile jaw bone

Life
The find of a piece of fossilised bone pushes back the history of the New Zealand animal, the tuatara, by a further 10 to 15 million years. Picture:

VELLBERG, Germany - A piece of fossilised bone just a centimetre long and around 240 million years old is providing evidence that a line of giant lizards still living in New Zealand can trace their ancestry back to beyond the time of the dinosaurs.

The jaw bone was not dug up in New Zealand but in Vellberg in Germany.

The find pushes back the history of the New Zealand animal, the tuatara, by a further 10 to 15 million years.

Rainer Schoch of the Stuttgart Natural History Museum said in the magazine BMC Evolutionary Biology that the find, along with later discoveries including a complete skeleton, would provide further knowledge on the evolution of this line of reptiles.

They are are related to both snakes and monitor lizards.

The species, which measured between five and 10 centimetres, has the unusual characteristic of the teeth growing directly out of the jaw. "Our early specimen is a very complete tuatara," Schoch said.

Tuatara, often described as "living fossils," continue to live on several islands off the New Zealand coast.

"I don't like the term 'living fossil' but this is the case here to some extent. This line is very long and very conservative," Schoch said.

The site in south-western Germany has yielded more than 25 new species over the past 13 years. Schoch hopes that many more will be found in the rocks.

The biggest finds at Vellberg range up to 6 metres in length. Palaeontologists from Washington, Buenos Aires, London and Berlin are assisting with the dig.

-Sapa

COMMENTS

     

LATEST STORIES

Police have stepped up security for Judge Colin Lamont, who is presiding over Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir's trial, following an incident while he was driving home.
Israeli shells struck a UN school in Gaza early Wednesday, killing 16 as ground troops made a signficant push into the territory despite Palestinian efforts to broker a 24-hr truce
Seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Venus Williams has booked a second-round match against world number 10 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus at the US Open tuneup event.

TOP STORIES view all

An audit of local government's coffers is expected to be released today. eNCA visits one municipality that's started turning the corner.
Police have launched an investigation after a burglary at the offices of Interpol in Pretoria. There is concern that the burglars may now have access to sensitive information.
A man arrested in connection with an alleged road rage attack in Fourways, Johannesburg, is expected to appear in the Randburg Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.

NEWS STREAMcloseview all

This is the overlay

eNCA Subscriptions

Close