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Dicynodonts May Have Survived 220 mya Extinction Event
Tusked fossil sparks resurrection row
Australian paleontologists claim museum reptile weathered mass extinction.
19 March 2003
With the body of a hippo, the beak of a turtle and the tusks of a walrus,
the long-lost dicynodont would seem hard to mistake. But a fossil that
could be an example of the creature is dividing palaeontolgists.
Dicynodonts were mammal-like reptiles that dominated the Earth before the
rise of the dinosaurs. They were thought to have died out around 220
million years ago.
Now Tony Thulborn and Susan Turner of Monash University in Clayton,
Australia, claim to have identified dicynodont fossils that are only 105
million years old - suggesting that they lived long after their supposed
The pair re-analysed fragments of a skull that was languishing in the
Queensland Museum's collection in Brisbane. The distinctive tusk, jaw and
beak attachment add up to an inescapable conclusion, says Thulborn: it's a
But other experts are finding the creature's apparent resurrection hard to
swallow. The skull pieces might have come instead from a horned dinosaur,
points out US-based palaeontologist Nicholas Fraser of the Virginia Museum
of Natural History in Martinsville.