Paleontologists Dig Up Fossils of Two New Prehistoric Saber-Toothed Predators in Russia

Saturday, 09 June 2018 - 5:17PM
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Saturday, 09 June 2018 - 5:17PM
Paleontologists Dig Up Fossils of Two New Prehistoric Saber-Toothed Predators in Russia
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Flickr/James St. John
It wasn't just saber-toothed tigers who had long teeth back way back when. And there were predators far, far older than that species (which isn't that closely related to a tiger anyway) with similar chompers. 

Because while Smilodon fatalis was alive up to 10,000 years ago, a team of paleontologists from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the Vyatka Paleontological Museum in Russia have discovered fossils which belonged to two new species of saber-toothed predators. And both of these new species date all the way back to the Permian period, which lasted from 300 - 250 million years ago and predates the era of dinosaurs

The two new species, both found in Russia, are considered early ancestors to mammals called "therapsids" and have been given fearsome names to match their status: one has been named Gorynychus masyutinae and belongs to a subgroup of proto-mammals which is nicknamed "beast heads", and the other is Nochnitsa geminidens and belongs to a similar subgroup nicknamed "gorgon faces".







Gorynychus (the beast head) is a Permian saber-toothed proto-mammal about the size of a modern wolf, which makes it one of the larger animals ever found in the area. Meanwhile, Nochnitsa (the gorgon face) is much smaller and had a long snout and lots of needle-like teeth.

The fact that they were uncovered in Russia is also fascinating, since Permian therapsid fossils have nearly all come from the Karoo Basin in South Africa. We know they spread around the globe at some point (mammals have all but taken over the planet, even if you exclude all the humans), but finding fossils like this in other parts of the world can teach us a lot about how ancestors to mammals spread during these early periods.

Especially since Beast Head and Gorgon Face here likely lived in-between two different mass extinction events during the Permian period. Life reshuffled itself a lot during that era, so it's always great to learn slightly more about what was running around where at any given moment.

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