Scientists Found The World’s Oldest Herbivorous Reptile

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The recent discovery in New Mexico, in the USA, of the fossils of the world’s oldest herbivorous reptile, dated about 300 million years old, might force scientists to “rewrite” the evolution of this class of animals, according to the researchers who participated in this finding.

“We will have to rewrite the history books, taking further back the period of evolution of herbivorous animals,” said Spencer Lucas, curator of Paleontology at the Museum of Natural History and Science of New Mexico, who called the discovery of the Gordodon kraineri, as the reptile was named, “one of the most significant discoveries.”

Gordodon kraineri, which was 5 feet (1.5 meters) long and weighed about 75 pounds (34 kilos), was discovered in 2013 near the town of Alamogordo in New Mexico by Ethan Schuth during a trip with his University of Oklahoma Geology class.

The group, led by Professor Lynn Soreghan, contacted Lucas and the museum located in Albuquerque, which was responsible for fossil extraction, treatment and research over the next several years, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS) reported this week.

Scientists Found The World’s Oldest Herbivorous Reptile

The unique structure of the skull, jaws and tooth type of the reptile indicate that it was a herbivore, characteristics not known in this type of animal over 200 million years old. According to Lucas, the world’s oldest reptile fossils lived in the Permian Period, about 50 million years before dinosaurs emerged.

“It is more like us the mammals than dinosaurs,” explained the researcher, who details that the name Gordodon comes from the combination of the Spanish word “gordo” and the Greek word “odon” or tooth, due to its long, pointed teeth at the tip of their jaws. Lucas, along with researcher Matt Celeskey, identified the fossil as a new species of herbivore and, regarding size and weight, would be equivalent to a modern-day Labrador dog.

Another significant aspect of the discovery is that the first herbivores were considered to eat all kinds of plants, but the reptile found in New Mexico “also ate seeds and fruit,” similar to modern-day sheep, deer, and rabbits, says the researcher. “We have indications that Gordodon kraineri was more selective in what he ate,” Lucas said.