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The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world.

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Pareiasaurs – Possible Relatives of Turtles

Posted August 02, 2013 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta
Pathfinder Tags: pareiasaurs

Haven't heard of the pareiasaur? Me either, until I read an article in ScienceDaily. According to a study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, a pareiasaur looked like "a cow-sized, plant eating reptile with a knobby skull and bony armor down its back."

Pareiasaurs were thought to have lived their lives isolated in a desert in the middle of Pangaea. Fossil evidence shows that the fauna of the time was unique to the area. Because the region was very dry the local animals stayed put and other animals were discouraged from passing through. This isolation likely allowed the animal to evolve its unique anatomy.

A few facts about pareiasaurs:

  • Lived during the Permian period (about 266-252 million years ago) in what is currently northern Niger
  • They were short and stocky; up to 9.8 feet long and weighing up to 1,300 pounds
  • The bony knobs on the skulls were probably similar to a giraffe's skin-covered horns; the recently-discovered fossils of some pareiasaurs belong to the genus Bunostegos, meaning "knobby roof"
  • Teeth resembled iguanas; likelihood of extensive digestive tract indicated that they were herbivorous

Are Pareiasaurs and Turtles Related?

Some paleontologists think that pareiasaurs were the early relatives of turtles, but that subject is still open to debate.

Turtle similarities:

  • Pareiasaurs were covered with bony scales; these might have been precursors to turtle shells
  • The dwarf species had flattened ribs and other bone structure characteristics similar to turtles
  • Primarily herbivorous

What do you think?


UC Berkeley - Introduction to Pareiasauria

Wikipedia - Pareiasaur

Wiley Online Library - Pareiasaur phylogeny and the origin of turtles (abstract)

Before It's News - Lee 1993 - An Important Contribution to Turtle Origins


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