Researchers have now uncovered proof of an ancient giant amphibian that predates the time of the dinosaurs, existing over 250 million years ago. The new fossils were discovered at Dave Green palaeosurface, in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. They were discovered in a rock surface and provide a ton of insight into an ancient creature that acted very similarly to crocodiles.
The evidence comes in the form of fossilized footprints that show the giant creature responsible for the footprints used to swim like crocodiles do today. However, the ancient giant amphibian existed roughly 50 million years before the crocodile evolved, researchers said in a statement.
According to a new study on the discovery, the rhinesuchid temnospondyls — which we’ve uncovered skeleton remains of in the past — existed during the late Permian Period. These two-meter-long ancient giant amphibians had bodies similar to crocodiles or massive salamanders.
Not only did the rhinesuchid temnospondyls swim like a crocodile, but it also appeared to have hunted through the water similarly. While the imprints showed that these ancient giant amphibians swam by swishing its tail side to side, it also seems that they tucked their feet when swimming. These creatures aren’t the oldest known life on Earth, but they still provide insight into some of Earth’s earlier days.
The study on this discovery is currently available in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed journal openly available from the Public Library of Science. The researchers note that getting to learn more about these ancient giant amphibians is important because it helps fill in the gaps we currently have about this period.
Finding evidence of creatures that existed before the dinosaurs as we know it isn’t surprising. That period has left behind plenty of marks on our planet. However, it is a period that has seen less front-line exposure compared to the later periods when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. So, having direct evidence of creatures similar to those we saw later is enlightening in many ways.