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Fossil of plant-eating reptile discovered in New Mexico

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Fossil of plant-eating reptile discovered in New Mexico

The earliest example of a reptile that eats plant has been discovered in the fossil record in southern New Mexico, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science told.

The museum announced this week, saying that the unique structure of the jaws, teeth and skull of the sail-backed reptile clearly shows that it was an herbivore. Not only that, but it also indicated that such specialized plant-eating wasn’t earlier known in reptiles older than approximately 200 million years.

The fossil bones were found by Ethan Schuth near Alamogordo while he was on a class field trip to University of Oklahoma geology in 2013. The bones were known to be part of a well preserved but incomplete skeleton.

Field crews spent almost a year for collecting the bones from the site and a lot more time was spent to remove the hard sandstone which surrounds the fossils so that the research could ensue.

Paleontology curator Spencer Lucas along with his team from the museum determined that the bones were almost 300 million years old, which means that the reptile lived during the early Permian Period, or over 50 million years before the dinosaurs started originating.

Lucas and research associate Matt Celeskey have been able to identify the skeleton as belonging to an absolutely new genus and species that they named as Gordodon kraineri. The world ‘Gordodon’ is derived from the Spanish word gordo, which means fat, and the Greek word ‘odon’, or tooth, as the species had quite large pointed teeth at the tips of its jaws.

The species name kraineri actually honors Karl Krainer, who is an Austrian geologist who is known to contribute to knowledge about the Permian period in New Mexico.

“Gordodon actually rewrites the books by pushing back our understanding of the evolution of such specialized herbivory by almost 100 million years,” Lucas told in a statement that was issued on Wednesday.

Gordodon was known to be about 5 feet long and weighed approximately 75 pounds. It was believed to be a selective feeder that was dependent on high-nutrient plants because of the advanced structure of its teeth, skull and jaws.

Experts at the museum say that other early herbivorous reptiles were not known to be selective, chomping on any plants that they came across. They say that Gordodon had some of the same specializations that were found in modern animals such as deer and goats.

Michelle has been a part of the journey ever since Bigtime Daily started. As a strong learner and passionate writer, she contributes her editing skills for the news agency. She also jots down intellectual pieces from categories such as science and health.

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Science

Cosmic Pretzel Discovered 700 Light-Years Away from Earth

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An image of two new born stars in the 11 system being described as a cosmic pretzel made up of a network of filaments of gas and dust has been captured by Astronomers. 11 system is part of the Barnard 59 nebula being around 700 light-years away from the earth.

The study’s lead author Felipe Alves in a statement has said that they can see 2 compact sources who’s size are similar to the asteroid belt in the solar system. They have interpreted it as circumstellar disks around two young stars. The separation between them is of 28 times the distance between the Sun and the Earth.

Alves added that they are expecting 2 level accretion process to drive the dynamics of the binary system during its mass accretion phase and they need to study more young binary systems in detail to understand how multiple stars form better.

The 2 circumstellar disks are surrounded by a larger disk that has a total mass equal to that of 80 Jupiter. The study’s co-author and managing director at MPE Paola Caselli has stressed that this is a really important result as they have finally imaged the complex structure of young binary stars with their feeding filaments connecting them to the disk in which they were born.

This has provided them with important constraints for current models of star formation. The baby stars gain mass in two stages from the much larger disk, first is when the mass is transferred in twirling loops making the pretzel image and second is when the stars gain mass from the circumstellar disks.

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