Scientists find meat-eating amphibian that appeared 70 mln yrs before first dinos

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Washington, March 16 (ANI): Scientists have found the fossil of a 300-million-year-old meat-eating amphibian near a major airport in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which appeared about 70 million years before the first dinosaurs appeared.

Scientists named the amphibian as 'Fedexia strieglei' as a gesture of thanks to the FedEx shipping company, which owns the land where the fossils were found, study co-author Dave Berman of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, told National Geographic News.

The 2-foot-long (0.6-meter-long) creature is also named for University of Pittsburgh geology student Adam Streigel, who mistook fossils of Fedexia's teeth for ancient fern leaves when he picked them up on a 2004 field trip.

A later excavation found two vertebrae and a well-preserved skull that clearly shows Fedexia's taste for meat.

The animal had two large canine-like teeth at the front of its mouth as well as tusks anchored to the roof of its mouth, which helped the amphibian dismember prey.

"It's obvious when he bit down on something, he could really hold on to it. It would provide a crushing blow to the animal," Berman said.

Fedexia likely hunted smaller amphibians and 5-inch-long (13-centimeter-long) giant cockroaches that scuttled through the steamy coal swamps of the late Pennsylvanian period, 318 to 299 million years ago.

Fedexia represents an extinct group of amphibians called Trematopidae that lived about 70 million years before the first dinosaurs appeared.

Unlike almost all other Pennsylvanian Period amphibians, which did not often venture out of the water, this rare, diverse group lived mostly on land, returning to the water perhaps only to mate or lay eggs.

The trematopids also provide evidence of the earliest vertebrate life in North America adapted to a mostly terrestrial existence.

Their success may have been a result of a long-term, global trend toward drier, warmer conditions that reached its climax near the end of the Pennsylvanian Period.

The fossils show that Fedexia had adapted to become one of the first successful vertebrate landlubbers, according to Berman.

For instance, Fedexia had tough, pebbly skin like that of modern-day newts.

"This would have prevented the Pittsburgh amphibian from drying out and from sustaining injuries such as cuts and scratches, allowing the animal to live for longer periods on land," Berman said. (ANI)

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