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New 300 mya Salamander Like Find
Pittsburgh A freshman geology student on a field trip stumbled across
the fossil of an oversized, salamander-like creature with crocodile-like
teeth that lived about 300 million years ago, paleontologists said.
Scientists said the find is both a new species and a new genus, a broader
category in the classification of plants and animals. Talks are under way
about what to call the new species, starting with Striegeli after the
University of Pittsburgh student who discovered it.
Paleontologists with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History also were
stunned when the impeccably preserved fossil from a trematopid amphibian
was unearthed this past spring in their own back yard. The discovery has
set off a hunt for bigger finds that could help define a grey area in
Earth's history in what is now the northeastern United States.
The creature, believed to have been about one metre long, is new to
science but we know it belongs to fairly terrestrial-adapted amphibians
living in the Pennsylvanian Period, about 300 million years ago, said
Christopher Beard, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the museum.
Carnegie paleontologist Dave Berman knew exactly what the stone-encased
skull fossil was, because only two others of the same family are known to
exist. He found one of them more than a decade ago in New Mexico.
The species has some characteristics of a crocodile but is closer to a
massive salamander one that could tear its prey to shreds.
This is much more advanced, meaning that they first appeared even further
back then we had thought, perhaps another five or 10 million years but
that's still a guess right now, Mr. Berman said.