Lisowicia bojani – an ancient cousin of mammals that lived in Silesia

In the new issue of the journal Science, Polish scientists described a mammalian cousin that lived about 200 million years ago and looked like a cross between a rhinoceros and a turtle. Lisowicia bojani, as the researchers named the creature, was the largest land animal living in the Triassic that was not a dinosaur.

Lisowicia bojani had a body similar to that of a rhinoceros, dziob as aołw and weighed as much as an African elephant, or about nine tons. According to a paleontologistow this surprising creature offers new insights into the origins of the dinosaur ageoin, whichore appeared in the poThe early Triassic.

The discovery of a huge prehistoric animal thatore lived about 200 millionow years ago, indicates that early dinosaurs were not the only group of large-sized creatures living at that time. The same evolutionary forces thatore favored giant dinosaurs, acted rown other creatures as well. Although dinosaurs dominated the next epoch, therapsids, whichore are the ancestors of all cooEarly mammalsow, were thriving even before the reign of the dinosaurow.

The results of the research by Professor Tomasz Sulej from the Institute of Paleobiology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Dr. Grzegorz Niedźwiedzki from Uppsala University were published in the journal „Science”.

The fossil found In the village of Lisowice in Silesia is a partial skeleton of a cousin of the mammalianow. Lisowicia bojani, according to researchers, was a herbivore. By their size dorownn to dinosaurs. It reached a length of more than 4.5 meters and was about 2.5 meters high. It had a large sizeoin tusks on gornej jaws, and beyond them the animals were toothless with beaks, as in wspoThe modernołwi.

Lisowicia bojani belonged to the dicynodontow, reptile infrarchoin mammalian – synapsidsow. This is part of a large evolutionary group thatora includes a cousin ofoin mammalsoin and their ancestorsow. They are among the most numerous and roThe dinosaurs were the first terrestrial creatures of the Middle Permian to Middle Triassic period – from 270 millionow to about 240 millionow years ago. The balance of power in favor of dinosaursow changed the Permian extinction.

During the poThe discovery of a huge prehistoric animal that was once mined for bricks in the Triassic, from about 240 millionow to 201 millionow years ago, early mammals and their relatives retreated into the shadows, while dinosaurs thrived and grew to enormous sizesow.

– Dicynodonts are the first group of vertebratesoin whichore could successfully eat plants,” Sulej said. They evolved a striking array of forms. Someore lived in the ground, as wspomodern moles, others, as the first vertebrates, lived in trees.

The incomplete skeleton Lisowice bojani discovered by Sulej, Niedźwiedzki and Jerzy Dzik of the Institute of Paleobiology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The fossil was found at a site from which theorego once extracted clay used to make bricks. In 2006, researchers received news that fragments had been found thereoin the bones of. After arriving at the site, it only took scientists 15 minutes to discover the unknown specimen.

Photo. Karolina Suchan-Okulska

Researchers at first thought they had come across the remains of a sauropod, whichory was the largest known herbivore at the time, reaching 11 meters ofoin the length. But the skull fragments and limb bones did not fit. Only after some time were they identified, as belonging to the largest and still unknown dicynodont.

During 11 years of field research in Lisowice, more than 1,000 bones were excavated. Fossils of a large predatory archosaur, a pterosaur, an as yet unnamed small dinosaur and the remains of ancient amphibians have been found thereow – Cyclotosaurusow and plagiosaurusow. Two years after the first discovery, a paleontological museum was established in the village.

Name Lisowicia bojani refers in the first part to the place of finding. The second part is to honor Ludwig Heinrich Bojanus, a professor at Vilnius University, whoory initiated the development of theoj wspoThe modern veterinary medicine in Poland.