40 M Years Before Dinosaurs, Pampaphoneus Biccais Roamed Earth


The gnarly-looking predators known as Pampaphoneus Biccai roamed South America 265 million years ago. Researchers working together found an “exquisitely preserved” 265 million-year-old set of fossils from the creature, including the skull. They lived 40 million years before dinosaurs appeared on Earth, insofar as anyone knows.

Collection of the new material in 2019. Photo by Felipe Pinheiro

The fossil was found in Sao Gabriel with a complete skull and some bones, including rib and arm bones. They studied and cleaned the skull for three years.

“This animal was a gnarly-looking beast, and it must have evoked sheer dread in anything that crossed its path,” said study co-author Stephanie E. Pierce, a professor in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University – a curator at the school’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. “Its discovery is key to providing a glimpse into the community structure of terrestrial ecosystems just prior to the biggest mass extinction of all time. A spectacular find that demonstrates the global importance of Brazil’s fossil record.”

Skull of the new Pampaphoneus biccai specimen. Photo by Felipe Pinheiro

They are one of four clades – species that lived at the time. Researchers believe it was three meters in length (about three yards) and weighed about 400 kilograms or over 880 pounds.

It’s only the second one found in South America. It served the same purpose as a cat and had sharp canine teeth. It was strong enough to chew bones. It looks like an alligator.

They may not be pretty, but they are impressive. They were the oldest and largest creature in Brazil at the time.

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