A Giant Salamander Spread Terror 40 Million Years Before the Dinosaurs


By John

Discovered in Namibia the fossil of a predator similar to a giant salamander that spread terror 40 million years before the appearance of dinosaurs: with a skull more than half a meter long and a body larger than a human being, it waited for its prey hidden in the marshy waters, ready to tear them apart with its powerful tusks. This is revealed by the study published in Nature by an international team led by Claudia Marsicano of the University of Buenos Aires and Jason Pardo of the Field Museum of Natural History Of Chicago.

The discovery of Gaiasia jennyae

The ancient giant salamander, called Gaiasia Jennyae“it was considerably larger than a person and probably frequented the bottoms of swamps and lakes,” Pardo explains. “It had a large, flat, toilet-seat-shaped head that allowed it to open its mouth and suck up prey. It had huge tusks, the entire front of its mouth was just giant teeth. It was a large predator, but potentially also a relatively slow ambush predator.”

The characteristics of the fossil

“When we found this huge specimen lying on the rock outcrop like a giant concretion, it was really shocking,” Marsicano says. “Just looking at it, I knew it was something completely different. We were all very excited. After examining the skull, the structure of its front part caught my attention. At the time, it was the only part clearly visible and it showed large tusks intertwined in a very unusual way, creating a unique bite for early tetrapods.”

Gaiasia: an archaic tetrapod

Gaiasia it is in fact considered a archaic tetrapod lived 300 million years ago, before the different groups that would later give rise to mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians evolved. At that time, the end of an ice age was approaching: the regions near the equator were drying out and becoming covered with vegetation, while closer to the poles many swampy areas remained. Today’s Namibia was then near the 60th parallel (almost at the same level as the northernmost point of present-day Antarctica) and there Gaiasia reigned supreme as the apex predator of its ecosystem.