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Science and Innovations

New Species of Extinct Reptile Found in Arizona’s Petrified Forest

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Jeff Martz/NPS
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Paleontologists have identified a new species of an extinct, crocodile-like creature in Petrified Forest National Park.

The fifteen-foot long reptile lived during the Triassic period, more than 200 million years ago. It belonged to a group of heavily armored plant-eaters.

Bill Parker, the lead paleontologist, says four fossils have been found in Petrified Forest National Park. “We started researching them,” he says, “and they had some characteristics that were different from other similar types of reptiles that had been found around the American Southwest, and that was enough for us to call it a new species.”  

The distinguishing feature is a knob on the plates covering the animal’s back.  The species name, Scutarx deltatylus, basically means “knobby shield.”

Parker says these reptiles were numerous during the Triassic, but they died out in a mysterious mass extinction. Their disappearance made way for the age of the dinosaurs.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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