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Scientists Discover Fossils Of 250-Million-Year-Old Prehistoric Saber-Toothed Predators In Russia

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Scientists found two new prehistoric species in Russia that date back over 250 million years ago. The discovery will help explain a mass extinction that occurred during the mid-Permian period.  ( Matt Celeskey )

Scientists dig up ancient fossils all the time, but it's not that often when a rare pair of prehistoric fossils are discovered near each other in Russia.

What Was Discovered In Russia?

The Vyatka Paleontological Museum in Kirov, Russia, recently teamed up with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences for an expedition in Kotelnich, Russia. Fossils from two previously unknown prehistoric predators were discovered by researchers. The findings were made public on June 8.

"Kotelnich is one of the most important localities worldwide for finding therapsid fossils - not only because they are amazingly complete and well-preserved there, but also because they provide an all-too-rare window into mammal ancestry in the Northern Hemisphere during the Permian," said paleontology curator Christian Kammerer.

The fossils, which were discovered by the Vyatka River, are of two protomammals, which is where all mammals descended from.

Researchers decided to name both predators after Russian folklore. The first one is wolf-sized carnivore and top predator in the area called Gorynychus masyutinae. The second fossil was called Nochnitsa geminidens, which is a smaller predator like a tiger.

Why Is This Discovery In Russia Significant?

Researchers hope that these fossils will explain how early mammals, or at least protomammals, evolved during this unique period. Both fossils are believed to be from the mid-Permian period, which was over 250 million years ago. The mammals during this time, known as therapsids, dominated Earth before the dinosaurs existed.

In the middle of this period, scientists believe that there was a mass extinction. Some scientists also say that the roles of particular carnivores rapidly changed as the environment was altered.

"In between these extinctions, there was a complete flip-flop in what roles these carnivores were playing in their ecosystems - as if bears suddenly became weasel-sized and weasels became bear-sized in their place," said Kammerer.

Most of the Permian therapsids were discovered in the Karoo Basin of South Africa, so this Russian discovery could change our knowledge of them. It is possible that the changes during the extinction occurred on a global level.

The extinction in the mid-Permian period likely had a big impact on the evolution of protomammals. Some scientists believe that the extinction lasted 200,000 years, and others believe that it was 15 million years. It is possible that 70 percent of land species and 95 percent of ocean species perished during this extinction period. Hopefully, these fossils will set the record straight.

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