Archaeologists in Russia have discovered the remains of a 250-million-year-old dragon-like creature that roamed the Earth even before the dinosaurs. In fact, it looks quite similar to the Komodo dragon that lives on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Flores, Rinca, and Gili Motang.
The fossils that were found 45 miles from the city of Orenburg on the Ural River belonged to a creature called Garjainia that was part of a reptilian group named erythrosuchids. Erythrosuchids are nicknamed “red crocodiles” because of their long bodies and gigantic teeth.
The species called Garjainia was around ten feet tall and had a gigantic head along with large teeth that have been described as being like “steak knives”. The creature would have lived in different parts of the world like South Africa, Eastern Europe, China, and India. Although it may sound strange that it lived in such different places, it actually makes a lot of sense as the creature was alive during the time of the super-continent Pangaea which was before Earth’s land separated into different continents.
Dr. Richard Butler, who is from the University of Birmingham and is also the lead author of the study (which can be read in full here), said that he was surprised at how well preserved the Garjainia remains were.
He said, “Erythrosuchids are large, predatory meat-eating reptiles that lived shortly after the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, the largest ecological crisis in Earth history.” The mass extinction wiped out almost every species on Earth 252 million years ago when volcanoes erupted in Siberia causing the oceans to turn into acid.
Another interesting fact about Erythrosuchids is that they roamed the Earth a few million years before the dinosaurs did, meaning that they were by far the planet’s most dominant predator. “They lived just prior to the very first dinosaurs, so erythrosuchids and dinosaurs did not live alongside one another, as far as we know,” Butler stated.
One of the species’ most notable features is its disproportionately gigantic head. “Proportionately, their skulls are probably larger than any other group of living or fossil reptiles,” Butler said. “In appearance, they looked a bit like a Komodo dragon – walking on four legs,” he noted, adding, “But they had very large heads relative to their body, with powerful jaws and large, sharp, steak-knife-like teeth.”
An artist’s rendition of what a Garjainia looked like can be seen here along with pictures of the bones that scientists analyzed.