Russian Saber-Tooth Fossils Illuminate Early Evolution of Mammal Lineage
(Courthouse News) – Researchers have discovered the fossils of two new species of ancient saber-toothed predators that will help illuminate a key period in the early evolution of mammals.
The lineage of modern mammals can be traced back to a group of animals called therapsids, a diverse group of “protomammals” that dominated terrestrial ecosystems during the Permian period approximately 299 to 252 million years ago — millions of years before dinosaurs first roamed the planet.
A pair of studies published Friday in the journal PeerJ describe two previously unknown species of predatory protomammals.
Discovered near the town of Kotelnich along the Vyatka River in Russia, the fossils add to the Vyatka Paleontological Museum’s collection of well-preserved Permian fossils.
As the majority of Permian fossils have been discovered in South Africa’s Karoo Basin, the newly described remains help balance out the outsized role the African nation’s record serves in informing researchers’ understanding of protomammal evolution.
The therocephalian Gorynychus masyutinae, top predator of the Kotelnich fossil assemblage, hunting a tree-dwelling herbivore (Suminia getmanovi).