Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ancient gliding reptile found in Virginia

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Paleontologists have discovered a new small gliding reptile in 220 million-year-old sediments of a quarry on the Virginia-North Carolina border. The new creature is named Mecistotrachelos apeoros, meaning "soaring, long-necked.”

"One of the really neat things about the new glider is the feet,” said Nick Fraser of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, who discovered the two fossils. “They are preserved in a hooked posture which is unusual and strongly suggests a grasping habit, further emphasizing a life style in the trees."

Fraser noted that the Triassic Period reptile probably fed on insects, scuttling up tree trunks and foraging on the way, before gliding onto neighboring trees. Two other reptiles with similar gliding membranes are known from the Triassic, but Fraser noted that they have much shorter necks and therefore are more like modern gliding lizards.

The lineage of the ancient reptile is still unclear, but Fraser thinks it is related to a group of extinct reptiles with long necks called protorosaurs—a group that includes the bizarre Tanystropheus, which toted around a neck longer than its body and tail combined.

Source : LiveScience

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