Wednesday, December 02, 2009
There Be Dragons (in the Triassic)
Here's a freaky one for ya: Vancleavea campi, a non-archosaur archosauriform from the Chinlea Formation. Although known since 1995, the heavily armored, semi-aquatic beastie was only just now fully described, by Sterling Nesbitt, who also described my favorite Triassic critter, Effigia. Vancleavea may be a close second, however. I mean, look at this thing. It's got a long, sinuous body, short skull with nasty-looking fangs, and a long, laterally flattened tail with a dorsal fin formed NOT by elongate neural spines but instead separate ossifications that would have been attached to the caudal vertebrae by soft tissue.
Well, this is nice. Blogger isn't loading the picture upload, so just head over here to see a skeletal restoration and the bugger's skull. Also note the extremely small limbs, which make me wonder how much time Vancleavea spent out of the water. What's most interesting to me, though, is that the entire body, from the back of the head to the tip of the tail, was covered in overlapping scutes of varying morphologies. I have the paper if anyone wants a copy. Seriously, you need to read about this animal!
Nesbitt, S. J., Stocker, M. R., Small, B. J. & Downs, A. 2009. The osteology and relationships of Vancleavea campi (Reptilia: Archosauriformes). Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society 157, 814-864.