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"Researchers from the Smithsonian have found the remains of a prehistoric reptile that lived with the dinosaurs. Read more about it here!"

Prehistoric Reptile Discovered That Once Lived Among Dinosaurs

We love new discoveries, and I’m quite excited about this latest one. While it may not be about a dinosaur, it concerns prehistoric reptiles that once lived with them. It’s not quite a lizard, and it belongs to the same lineage as the tuatara reptiles you’d find in New Zealand today. As a matter of fact, it may be one of its ancestors.

With mostly a complete skeleton in tact, the Smithsonian crew is delighted. It’s not often that you find reptile fossils in such good condition since the bones are usually too fragile. Here’s more information about the find.


prehistoric reptile tuatara foundImage credit: Smithsonian, Julius Csotonyi

The Discovery of the prehistoric tuatara reptiles has researchers excited

According to the Smithsonian researchers, the new species hails from the Jurassic Period in North America. With features similar to the modern tuatara, it’s not a lizard. However, they slowly faded from existence until they completely vanished. This event gave rise to snakes and lizards in later times.

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The new Opisthiamimus gregori species

The species name for this new discovery is Opisthiamimus gregori. The Smithsonian Institution presented the name in honor of Joseph Gregor who spent several hours preparing the fossils for further study. It was Pete Kroehler who first spotted the first signs of the remains in 2010, though. 

Tuatara reptiles supplanted by snakes and lizards

One of the authors of the paper in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology is Matthew Carrano. He noted how these Rhynchocephalia reptiles suddenly vanished in prehistoric times, probably due to climate change and the rise of snakes and lizards.

“These animals may have disappeared partly because of competition from lizards but perhaps also due to global shifts in climate and changing habitats. It’s fascinating when you have the dominance of one group giving way to another group over evolutionary time, and we still need more evidence to explain exactly what happened, but fossils like this one are how we will put it together.”

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Living among the dinosaurs

The report shows how this tuatara reptile possibly lived with dinosaurs like Allosaur and Stegosaur, running around on the ground and feeding on insects and other food. It was so small that you would have been able to hold it in the palm of your hand.

While it may have been able to evade the sight and speed of larger predators, there was also the chance it could have been trodden underfoot if not careful. While past discoveries of these small reptiles mostly consisted of teeth and jaws, the Smithsonian is excited to have a nearly complete skeleton.


prehistoric reptile tuatara found

Image source: Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 

What an interesting discovery!

I’m definitely happy to hear about this discovery. While I love dinosaurs the most, it’s always interesting to learn about other creatures that lived with them at the time. In our Beyond Dinosaurs section, we’ll try to include more of these so you can learn about them too. 

What other discoveries interest you? Do you think learning about other reptiles of that time is important to understanding dinosaurs? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll try to cover more news like this.

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Shaun M Jooste

Shaun M Jooste

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