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Yale study: Extinct animal was like an anteater with a scary claw

September 30, 2016:

by Register Staff

It wasn’t a dinosaur, but it’s related to them, as well as lizards and crocodiles. And it had a scary-looking claw on each front foot.

The extinct animal, called Drepanosaurus, which a Yale University release said was a cross between a chameleon and an anteater, measured between 1 and 2 feet long. Its 212 million-year-old forearm fossils were found at the Hayden Quarry in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.

The fossils are the only ones found other than a crushed Drepanosaurus skeleton discovered in northern Italy more than 30 years ago, according to the release.

“This animal stretches the bounds of what we think can evolve in the limbs of four-footed animals,” said Adam Pritchard, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale and first author of the study, in the release. “Ecologically, Drepanosaurus seems to be a sort of chameleon-anteater hybrid, which is really bizarre for the time. It possesses a totally unique forelimb.”

Rather than having parallel radius and ulna bones in its forelimbs, as other four-limbed animals do, Drepanosaurus’ ulna is a flat, crescent-shaped bone and its two wrist bones are longer than the radius bone, the release said.

“The bone contacts suggest that the enlarged claw of Drepanosaurus could have been hooked into insect nests,” Pritchard said. “The entire arm could then have been powerfully retracted to tear open the nest. This motion is very similar to the hook-and-pull digging of living anteaters, which also eat insects.”

Drepanosaurus also had grasping feet and a claw-like structure at the tip of its tail. The findings were published in the Sept. 29 edition of Current Biology.

Other co-authors came from Stony Brook University, the University of Utah, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.



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