SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Fossils show huge salamanderlike predator with sharp fangs existed before the dinosaurs

Jul 3, 2024, 4:35 PM

This July 2, 2018 image provided by Claudia Marsicano shows an image of the nearly complete skeleto...

This July 2, 2018 image provided by Claudia Marsicano shows an image of the nearly complete skeleton from fossils recovered in Namibia of a giant salamander-like creature at the Paleontology lab in Cape Town, South Africa. (Claudia Marsicano via AP)

(Claudia Marsicano via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists have revealed fossils of a giant salamanderlike beast with sharp fangs that ruled waters before the first dinosaurs arrived.

The predator, which was larger than a person, likely used its wide, flat head and front teeth to suck in and chomp unsuspecting prey, researchers said. Its skull was about 2 feet (60 centimeters) long.

“It’s acting like an aggressive stapler,” said Michael Coates, a biologist at the University of Chicago who was not involved with the work.

This image provided by Gabriel Lio shows an artistic reconstruction of what the prehistoric salamander-like creature may have looked like. Researchers discovered a giant salamander-like predator that lived about 280 million years ago, using fossils recovered from Namibia. (Gabriel Lio via AP)

Fossil remnants of four creatures collected about a decade ago were analyzed, including a partial skull and backbone. The findings on Gaiasia jennyae were published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The creature existed some 40 million years before dinosaurs evolved.

Researchers have long examined such ancient predators to uncover the origins of tetrapods: four-legged animals that clambered onto land with fingers instead of fins and evolved to amphibians, birds and mammals including humans.

Most early tetrapod fossils hail from hot, prehistoric coal swamps along the equator in what’s now North America and Europe. But these latest remnants, dating back to about 280 million years ago, were found in modern-day Namibia, an area in Africa that was once encrusted with glaciers and ice.

That means tetrapods may have thrived in colder climates earlier than scientists expected, prompting more questions about how and when they took over the Earth.

“The early story of the first tetrapods is much more complex than we thought,” said co-author Claudia Marsicano at the University of Buenos Aires, who was part of the research.

The creature’s name comes from the Gai-As rock formation in Namibia where the fossils were found and for the late paleontologist Jennifer Clack, who studied how tetrapods evolved.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

KSL 5 TV Live

Science & Technology

On Monday, organizers of a plan to bring high-speed internet to the most remote corners of Utah an...

Lauren Steinbrecher

Plan to connect all Utahns to high-speed internet receives federal funding

On Monday, organizers of a plan to bring high-speed internet to the most remote corners of Utah announced the federal government signed off on the funds to make it happen. 

2 days ago

FILE - A Delta Air Lines jet leaves the gate, Friday, July 19, 2024, at Logan International Airport...

Associated Press

Delta Air Lines says cancellations continue as it tries to restore operations after tech outage

Airlines, including Delta Air Lines, continued to struggle to restore operations two days after a faulty software update caused technological havoc worldwide.

2 days ago

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 19: Passengers look at a  flight information board showing multiple delays an...

Associated Press

A massive tech outage is causing worldwide disruptions. Here’s what we know

Much of the world faced online disarray Friday as a widespread technology outage affected companies and services across industries.

5 days ago

In this photo illustration a Crowdstrike logo seen displayed on a smartphone. The global computer o...

Sean Lyngaas

What is CrowdStrike, the company linked to the global outage?

The global computer outage affecting airports, banks and other businesses on Friday appears to stem at least partly from a software update issued by major U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike

5 days ago

Olympians have already raced in the sneaker, and more are expected to wear them during the Games. (...

Leah Dolan, CNN

Marathon-winning ‘spray-on’ running shoes could shake up Olympics

Swiss sportswear brand On is the latest company to embrace advanced “spray-on” materials with a “revolutionary” robot-made sneaker it believes can improve performance at this month’s Olympics.

7 days ago

FILE - An Amazon Prime cardboard shipping box label is seen on March 17, 2023, in East Derry, N.H. ...

Wyatte Grantham-Philips and Haleluya Hadero, AP Business Writers

Amazon Prime Day is a big event for scams, experts warn

Amazon Prime Day is here, and experts are reminding consumers to be wary of scams during the two-day sale event.

8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Fossils show huge salamanderlike predator with sharp fangs existed before the dinosaurs