Earliest remains of legless amphibians discovered in US

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have discovered on the territory of Arizona the body prints of the most ancient legless invertebrate creatures that lived on Earth about 220 million years ago, at the end of the Triassic era.

This discovery pushes back the time of their appearance by about 35 million years into the past.

“This discovery once again emphasizes the importance of finding new fossils to resolve the most controversial issues in paleontology.

When I began to study these prints and saw a double row of teeth, I immediately realized that I was dealing with the most ancient representative of legless invertebrates.

Similar finds happen time in life,” said VT researcher Ben Kligman, quoted by the university’s press service.

There are three orders of amphibians on Earth – the widespread tailed and tailless amphibians, as well as their much rarer relatives from among the legless amphibians-worms.

In their appearance, these creatures are more like eels or worms than frogs, newts and other tailed and tailless amphibians.

In recent decades, there has been a fierce debate between paleontologists and geneticists about how and when legless amphibians arose.

On the one hand, analysis of the worm genome shows that these amphibians appeared approximately 370-270 million years ago, back in the Carboniferous or Permian era, long before the advent of dinosaurs.

On the other hand, the oldest imprints of their bodies found throughout the existence of science belong to the Jurassic era – their age is about 185 million years.

The oldest legless amphibians of the Earth

Kligman and his colleagues took a big step towards resolving these disputes by studying fossils found in the Petrified Forest National Park, located in northwestern Arizona.

On its territory there are rocks formed at the end of the Triassic period, inside which there are a large number of imprints of the bodies of ancient animals, as well as petrified tree trunks.

American paleontologists have discovered fragments of the jaws and bones of a previously unknown legless amphibian species in this reserve, which was named Funcusvermis gilmorei in honor of the song “Cool worm” (eng. Funky worm) by the Ohio Players and the famous American paleontologist Ned Gilmore.

According to scientists, the body length of these amphibians was only a few centimeters, and their mass was also very small.

The age of these fossils, according to the researchers, is about 220 million years, which pushes back the time of the appearance of worms by about 35 million years in the past.

Unlike modern legless amphibians, Funcusvermis gilmorei were much more similar to frogs and newts, and their closest relatives were the so-called dyssophorid temnospondyls, extinct amphibians that are the putative ancestors of modern anurans.

The discovery of Funcusvermis gilmorei, according to Kligman and his colleagues, suggests that dyssophorid temnospondyls and their closest relatives were also the ancestors of legless amphibians.

Also, the discovery of this fossil in Arizona, which was near the equator in the Triassic era, indicates that caecilians originally lived in the equatorial regions of the Earth, where they are most often found today, paleontologists concluded.


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