Nav: Home

Bristol undergraduate reconstructs the skulls of 2 species of ancient reptile

February 25, 2019

Using two partially fragmented fossil skulls, a student at the University of Bristol has digitally reconstructed, in three-dimensions, the skulls of two species of ancient reptile that lived in the Late Triassic, one of which had been previously known only from its jaws.

The research was completed by Sofia Chambi-Trowell, an undergraduate in Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, as part of her final-year project for her degree in Palaeobiology.

Clevosaurus was a lizard-like reptile that was first named back in 1939 from specimens found at Cromhall Quarry, near Bristol.

Since then, similar beasts have been found elsewhere around Bristol and in South Wales, as well as in China and North America. Clevosaurus was an early representative of an ancient group of reptiles called Rhynchocephalia, which today is represent only by the tuatara of New Zealand.

In her project, Sofia worked on new fossils of Clevosaurus hudsoni, the first species to be named, and Clevosaurus cambrica, which was named from a quarry site in South Wales in 2018.

She used CT scans of both skulls to reconstruct their original appearance, and she found evidence that the two species, which lived at the same time in the Late Triassic, some 205 million years ago, showed significant differences.

Sofia said: "I found that Clevosaurus cambrica was smaller overall and had a narrower snout than Clevosaurus hudsoni.

"Other differences include the number, shape and size of the teeth in the jaws, suggesting the two species fed on different food."

Clevosaurus probably ate insects. Clevosaurus cambrica has corkscrew-shaped teeth which suggests it was able to shred the insect carcass by the natural twist as it drove its teeth through the hard carapace.

Clevosaurus hudsoni had teeth more adapted for simply slicing the prey. This might suggest that Clevosaurus cambrica ate larger or harder-shelled insects like beetles or cockroaches, while Clevosaurus hudsoni ate worms or millipedes which were less tough.

Professor Mike Benton, one of Sofia's project supervisors, added: "Sofia's work is a great example of how modern technology like CT scanning can open up information we would not know about.

"It took a lot of work, but Sofia has uncovered a good explanation of how many species of Clevosaurus could live side by side without competing over food."

Her other supervisor, Dr David Whiteside, said: "Two hundred million years ago, Bristol lay much further south than it does today - about the same latitude as Morocco.

"Also, sea level was higher, so the peaks of limestone hills south of Bristol and in South Wales were islands, like Florida today.

"They were full of dinosaurs, early mammals, and rhynchocephalians feeding on the rich, tropical plants and insects. Sofia's work helps us understand so much about this extraordinary time when dinosaurs were just taking over the world."
-end-


University of Bristol

Related Insects Articles:

The brains of shrimps and insects are more alike than we thought
Crustaceans share a brain structure known to be crucial for learning and memory in insects, a University of Arizona-led research team discovered.
Freshwater insects recover while spiders decline in UK
Many insects, mosses and lichens in the UK are bucking the trend of biodiversity loss, according to a comprehensive analysis of over 5,000 species led by UCL and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), and published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Hundreds of novel viruses discovered in insects
New viruses which cause diseases often come from animals. Well-known examples of this are the Zika virus transmitted by mosquitoes, bird flu viruses, as well as the MERS virus which is associated with camels.
Tiny insects become 'visible' to bats when they swarm
Small insects that would normally be undetectable to bats using echolocation suddenly become detectable when they occur in large swarms.
Helpful insects and landscape changes
We might not notice them, but the crops farmers grow are protected by scores of tiny invertebrate bodyguards.
New information on tropical parasitoid insects revealed
The diversity and ecology of African parasitoid wasps was studied for over a year during a project run by the Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku in Finland.
Insects need empathy
In February, environmentalists in Germany collected 1.75 million signatures for a 'save the bees law.' Citizens can stop insect declines by halting habitat loss and fragmentation, producing food without pesticides and limiting climate change, say the authors of this Perspectives piece in Science.
Migratory hoverflies 'key' as many insects decline
Migratory hoverflies are 'key' to pollination and controlling crop pests amid the decline of many other insect species, new research shows.
We now know how insects and bacteria control ice
in a paper published today in the Journal of the American Chemical Society University of Utah professor Valeria Molinero and her colleagues show how key proteins produced in bacteria and insects can either promote or inhibit the formation of ice, based on their length and their ability to team up to form large ice-binding surfaces.
Widespread losses of pollinating insects in Britain
Many insect pollinator species are disappearing from areas of Great Britain, a new study has found.
More Insects News and Insects Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.