Weird fossils found in a New Mexico quarry are causing scientists to completely rethink reptile evolution.
Scientists are absolutely baffled by a strange 200-million-year-old reptile that seems to be completely changing their ideas about the reptile world. These new fossils indicate that Drepanosaurus had big hooked claws meant for digging insects out of bark like modern day anteaters, and it’s completely defying convention when it comes to reptile evolution.
The study, which was published in the journal Current Biology, is based on fossils found in a New Mexico quarry. This cat-sized reptile likely lived in the trees and had a bird-like head on a body like a chamaleon. But its forearms were the truly odd feature, according to a Yale University statement.
The reptile had massive arms and forearms, and was described by researchers as very muscular. It had an index finger larger than the other fingers, and had a huge claw that was the large bone of the whole arm. Usually, the arm of tetrapod animals will follow some consistent rules, and it has stayed the same through 375 million years. Not for this strange creature, however.
The research is based on 3D reconstructions of the reptile based on scans of the bones.
“This animal stretches the bounds of what we think can evolve in the limbs of four-footed animals,” said Adam Pritchard, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale and first author of the study. “Ecologically, Drepanosaurus seems to be a sort of chameleon-anteater hybrid, which is really bizarre for the time. It possesses a totally unique forelimb.
“The bone contacts suggest that the enlarged claw of Drepanosaurus could have been hooked into insect nests,” Pritchard said. “The entire arm could then have been powerfully retracted to tear open the nest. This motion is very similar to the hook-and-pull digging of living anteaters, which also eat insects.”