Get a load of this guy’s tongue! But what is this on earth? Is it a frog? chameleon? Salamander? Nope – it’s a “strange” 99-million-year-old amphibian called Albanorpeptide! Now that’s a mouthful!
Scientists have discovered fossils of a prehistoric creature in Myanmar and believe it to be the oldest evidence of a tongue-like slingshot.
They say that these armored animals were “predators sitting and waiting” to snatch prey by firing a projectile from their “ballistic tongues”.
Although they had lizard-like claws, scales, and tails, researchers believe that the banarpeptides were not reptiles but rather part of the family of amphibians, such as frogs and newts.
The results, published in the journal Science, changed the way scientists believed small animals to feed on, as the panerbitontides were previously thought to be underground burrows.
This discovery adds a very impressive piece to the puzzle of this mysterious group of strange little animals
“Knowing that they had this ballistic tongue gives us a whole new understanding of this entire lineage.” Said Edward Stanley, director of the Digital Discovery and Publishing Lab at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Modern amphibians are represented by three distinct subspecies – frogs, salamanders and caecilians without limbs. Lineage refers to a series of species that are considered to have evolved from those that came before them, think of them as a family tree of amphibians.
Researchers say that even two million years ago, there was a fourth – the banptotides – dating back at least 165 million years ago.
However, study co-author Susan Evans, professor of morphology and vertebrate paleontology at University College London, believes that their lineage may be much older, and may have originated an astonishing 250 million years ago! Now, that’s old!
“If the oldest albanerpeptide had ballistic tongues, the feature has been around for a longer time than the older chameleons, which are likely to date back to 120 million years,” she said.
The researchers say the fossil represents a new type of panerbitontide, called Yaksha perettii, that measures about 5 cm long without the tail.
Another fossil also contains albanerptontide-like features such as claws, scales, massive eye sockets, and ejected tongue.
Professor Evans said the finding that banerpeptides have ejected tongues helps explain some of their “weird and wonderful” properties, such as the unusual jaw and neck joints and large, forward-looking eyes – a common feature of predators.
She added that she may have breathed right through her skin, as some salamanders do.
Despite the results, how the panireptontides are contained in the amphibian family tree remains a mystery.
Professor Evans said: “In theory, the panirbitontides could give us an idea of what the ancestors of modern amphibians looked like.
“Unfortunately, they are so specialized and so weird in their own way that they don’t help us much.”