(ORDO NEWS) — On the border of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras, about 250 million years ago, the most terrible extinction in history overtook the Earth, killing more than three-quarters of all life.
However, if some groups of animals disappeared almost completely, then others were practically not affected. Judging by the bones of a tiny pangolin from Antarctica, reptiles were among the latter.
The Permian mass extinction, which is not for nothing called the Great, led to an unprecedented collapse of the biosphere, destroying about 70 percent of terrestrial and 95 percent of marine species.
All living organisms suffered, from the smallest foraminifera to the largest land vertebrates, but at the same time, death did not mow down everyone indiscriminately, and certain groups of animals survived the planetary catastrophe relatively well.
Apparently, among the “lucky ones” were the future rulers of the Earth, reptiles: their losses were relatively small, and after extinction, the lizards quickly began to fill the vacant ecological niches. But scientists did not know for a long time what the new ecosystems were like after extinction.
Now they have figured it out by examining the fossils of the small reptile Palacrodon, whose fossils have been found in the US, South America and Antarctica.
It was in Antarctica that paleontologists discovered the most complete specimen, and with the help of computed tomography and microscopy, they were able to study it in great detail.
It turned out that this mysterious lizard, whose position on the evolutionary tree could not be established for a long time, is related to the current sauria (Sauria) – a group that includes almost all reptiles except the most primitive species – but still cannot be called a “reptile” in modern understanding of this word.
Scientists have also discovered that Palacrodon’s teeth are adapted for eating plants, and the structure of its fingers hints at an arboreal lifestyle – and this is only two million years after the mass extinction, when the Earth’s vegetation was still recovering from the shock.
It turns out that already during the first million years after the catastrophe, which lasted thousands of years, reptiles began to lead an arboreal lifestyle and eat green fodder, which indicates a relatively rapid restoration of vegetation.
Perhaps the revival of life on Earth began precisely at the poles, where the climate was milder and wetter, and from there plants and animals again spread throughout the planet.
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