New fossils of an ancient reptile called Bunostegos akokanensis indicate that it probably wasn’t winning any prehistoric beauty contests.
“Imagine a cow-sized, plant-eating reptile with a knobby skull and bony armor down its back,” Linda Tsuji, leader of a new study on the critter, said in a statement.
But the specimens, discovered in northern Niger, are giving the University of Washington’s Tsuji and colleagues a glimpse into the Middle and Late Permian periods (266-252 million years ago), when all of Earth’s landmasses were joined into a single supercontinent called Pangaea. (See a prehistoric time line.)
B. akokanesis belonged to a group of large reptiles called pareiasaurs that were common across Pangaea. The new Niger specimens show that species in the genus Bunostegos were related to older, more primitive pareiasaurs, according to an analysis published June 25 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology…