During recent excavations conducted in Poland, researchers stumbled upon remains of a yet unknown species of herbivore. This huge plant-eating animal from the family of dicynodonts hails from the late Triassic time period. If the recent findings are anything to go by, it rivaled a modern-day elephant when it comes to size.
The fossils discovered in Poland tell us that this animal lived during the Late Triassic period, which was some 237 to 201 million years ago. At that time the only animals that could rival it in size were dinosaurs. Surprisingly enough, this animal was not a dinosaur but a dicynodont.
Dicynodonts were four-legged animals, and their closest modern relatives are mammals. Until recently, most of the specimens found have been relatively moderate in size. This new species is much larger than anything that has previously been on record. When it comes to size the new member of the dicynodont family was 4.5 meters long with a weight in the neighborhood of nine tons. The first similar animal that was anywhere near that size emerged some 150 million years later during the Eocene period.
This find represents one of the most surprising discoveries, especially when looking at findings from the Triassic period. No mammal of similar size has been found in Europe until now. Scientists never thought that a specimen such as this may be found in this region of the world. Especially an animal that is so closely related to mammals.
The animal resembled today’s rhinos with its upright limbs. Other dicynodonts from the Late Triassic had limbs that closely resembled the ones found on today’s lizards. This change in posture was helpful for supporting the massive weight of the animal.