From Discovery News:
Razor-Toothed Meat-Eater Was Mammal Relative
With its saw-like teeth and sleek body, this voracious predator was equipped to rip flesh from prey.
By Jennifer Viegas
Mon Dec 12, 2011 09:39 AM ET
A newly discovered ancient mammal-like animal was a sleek predator with an incredible appetite for meat.
The animal was a hypercarnivore, meaning over 70 percent of its diet was meat.
The protomammal died out, but another group — the cynodonts — gave rise to mammals some 35 million years later.
A newly identified primitive mammal-like animal was agile, sleek and had a voracious appetite for meat.
The animal, identified as a varanopid pelycosaur and part of the genus Aerosaurus, looked like today’s Komodo dragons, but was actually more closely related to mammals, according to a study published in the journal Naturwissenschaften (The Science of Nature).
“Our varanopid was probably about the size of an adult Nile monitor found in Africa,” co-author Sean Modesto told Discovery News.
“It would have looked superficially like one too. The curvature of the teeth (the tips curve back towards the throat) and the serrations on the cutting edges of these teeth suggest that the animal was equipped to rip flesh from vertebrate prey.”
One of the world’s most successful fossil hunters, Roger Smith, found and collected the specimen, which consists of a partial skull and jaw. Smith, another co-author, discovered the remains in rocks from the Pristerognathus Assemblage Zone of the Beaufort Group, South Africa.
… It lived about 260 million years ago during the Permian Period and was part of “the first wave of creatures on the evolutionary line to mammals,” said Modesto, an associate professor of biology at Cape Breton University. …
Aerosaurus eventually died out. Another protomammal group, called the cynodonts, gave rise to mammals. The cynodonts appeared some 1-3 million years after the lifetime of the newly identified varanopid. It then took another 35 million years of evolution before the first actual mammals emerged.