Giant killer salamander – level 3

30-03-2015 15:00

A giant killer salamander that’s said to have looked like something out of a bad monster movie was one of earth’s top predators more than 200 million years ago. Palaeontologists have identified the prehistoric species after excavating bones buried on the site of an ancient lake in southern Portugal.

The ferocious amphibian is officially known as Metoposaurus algarvensis and is a distant relative of salamanders living today.

Its fossilised remain showed that the creature was as long as a small car. It had hundreds of sharp teeth in its large and flat head, which has been described by doctor Steve Brusatte who led the study, as like a toilet seat when the jaws snap shut.

They lived in lakes and rivers during the Late Triassic period, living much like crocodiles do today and feeding mainly on fish.

The family of giant amphibians, to which Metoposaurus belonged, were wiped out during a mass extinction 201 million years ago, long before the death of the dinosaurs.

It was the type of fierce predator that the very first dinosaurs had to put up with if they strayed too close to the water. Members of the colony are thought to have died when the lake they inhabited dried up.

Difficult words: palaeontologists (a person who does palaeontology – the science about fossil animals and plants), prehistoric (extremely old – before the history of people), species (an animal kind), excavate (to dig out), ferocious (very dangerous), amphibian (an animal which lives partly on land and partly in the water), fossilised (turned into a fossil – a piece of an old organism turned into rock), snap shut (to close suddenly and quickly), extinction (when an animal species dies out), fierce (ferocious), stray (to come by chance), inhabit (to live somewhere).


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