New Aquatic Carnivores, 278 Million Years Old, Shed Light On Spread Of Life On Earth

First Posted: Nov 05, 2015 03:05 PM EST

Several new species of amphibians and a reptile are revealing new evidence about the spread of life on Earth 278 million years ago, according to study by researchers at The Field Museum.

"Now we finally have information about what kinds of animals were present in areas farther to the south, and their similarities and differences to the animals living near the equator," Ken Angielczyk, co-author of the study, said in a news release.

The new aquatic carnivore species were found in northeastern Brazil, enabling the researchers to determine how animals migrated within the various regions on supercontinent Pangaea.

The study examines two new species of aquatic carnivorous amphibians, Timonya annae, which is a small aquatic amphibian with fangs and gills that looks like the combination of a modern Mexican salamander and an eel; and Procuhy nazarienis, whose name means means 'fire frog' in Timbira, a native Brazilian language.

The newly discovered species are distant relatives of modern salamanders, however, they are neither frogs nor salamanders. They mostl likely belonged to an extinct species from more than 250 million years ago, during the Permian period. The species had similarities to other species of amphibians in various parts of Africa, North America and now, Brazil.

"Exploration in understudied areas, such as northeastern Brazil, gives us a snapshot of life elsewhere that we can use for comparisons," Angielczyk said. "In turn, we can see which animals were dispersing into new areas, particularly as an ice age was ending in the southern continents and environmental conditions were becoming more favorable for reptiles and amphibians."

This new discovery will enable scientists to understand how animals dispersed during the Permian and how they colonized new areas, according to the researchers.

The findings of this study were published in Nature Communications.

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