New Species of Human-Sized Salamander Found in Portugal

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Paleontologists have unearthed fossils of an enormous salamander-like creature that lived between 220 and 230 million years ago in the tropical regions of the supercontinent Pangaea. The bones of Metoposaurus algarvensis were discovered in (and named after) the Algarve region of Portugal. The remains suggest the creature was more than six feet long and may have weighed over 200 pounds. It likely had a broad, round head and thin legs that would barely have carried its weight when out of water.

These are the first metoposaur bones to be found on the Iberian peninsula, but others (though different species) have appeared in North America, India and Africa, as well as elsewhere in Europe. This suggests the creature was fairly widespread before the continents split apart about 200 million years ago. Metoposaur remains have often been found in large groups, a telltale sign of mass death — something that might happen if, for instance, the lake system forming their habitat were to dry up or drain.

The study, led by Stephen Brusatte at the University of Edinburgh, appeared this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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