Get a load on this guy’s tongue! But what on earth is there? Is it a frog? A chameleon? A salamander? Nah – this is a “weird” 99 million year old amphibian known as an albanarpetontid! Now that face!
Scientists have discovered the fossil of a pre-historic animal in Myanmar and believe it is the oldest evidence of a slingshot-style tongue.
They said the armored animal was a “sitting and waiting predator” that snatched the prey by firing their supposed ballistic tongues.
Although they had lizard-like claws, scales and tails, the researchers believed that albenerpetonotides were not reptiles, but part of a family of amphibians like frogs and nuts.
In a study published in the journal Science, scientists changed how they thought of feeding this tiny creature, as albenerpetonotides were thought to be underground baroque before.
This discovery adds a super-cool piece to the puzzle of this obscure group of strange little creatures
“Knowing that they have this ballistic tongue gives us a whole new understanding of the whole lineage.” Dr. Edward Stanley, director of the Florida Museum of Digital Discovery and Promotion Laboratory of Natural History.
Modern day amphibians are represented by three distinct lineages – frogs, salamanders and limeless casilians. A genus means a sequence of species that is thought to have evolved from an earlier one, think of it as an amphibian family tree.
Researchers say there was a fourth one from today to two million years ago – Albenerpetontidus – whose lineage is at least 165 million years old.
However, study co-author Susan Evans, a professor of spinal morphology and paleontology at University College London, believes that their lineage may be much older, perhaps dating back more than 250 million years ago! Now, it’s old!
He said: “If there were also ballistic languages among the early Albanirpetontids, the feature would have lasted longer than the early giraffes, probably 120 million years ago.”
The researchers say the fossil represents a new species of Hilsherpetetides, called Yaksha peretei, which is about 5 cm long without a tail
Another fossil also has features that are similar to those of birds, scales, huge eye sockets, and a perforated tongue, such as albanerpetontids.
Professor Evans said that the discovery of the albinarpetontids’ presumed languages helped them explain some of their “strange and surprising” features, such as abnormal jaw and neck joints and large, forward-looking eyes – a common feature of predators.
He also said that like some other salamanders, he was able to breathe through their skin.
Despite the search, how albenerpetonotides fit into amphibian family trees remains a mystery.
Professor Evans said: “Theoretically, albenerpetontides could give us an idea of what the ancestors of modern amphibians looked like.
“Unfortunately, they are so specialized and so weird in their own way that they don’t help us that much.”