Thursday, 21 June 2012

A predatory Archosaur from the Late Triassic of southern Poland.

Archosaurs are the group of Vertebrates that include Crocodilians, Dinosaurs and their relatives (and possibly the Pterosaurs; experts differ on whether or not these were Archosaurs). There were a number of different groups in the Triassic, but later in the Mesozoic most of these had disappeared, leaving only the familiar groups.

In a paper published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica on 16 August 2011 Grzegorz Niedźweidzki of the Institute of Zoology at the University of Warsaw and the Department of Organismal Biology and the Evolutionary Biology Centre at Uppsala University, Tomasz Sulej of the Institute of Paleobiology at the Polish Academy of Sciences and Jerzy Dzik of the Institute of Paleobiology at the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Zoology at the University of Warsaw describe a new predatory Archosaur from Late Triassic mudstone in the Lipie Śląskie clay−pit, about 2 km west of Lubliniec in Silesia, Poland.

The new Archosaur is described as Smok wawelski, 'Smok' is Polish for 'Dragon' and Smok Wawelski translates as the Dragon of Wawel Hill, a legendary dragon that lived on Wawel Hill in what is now Kraków and which was supposedly slain by Prince Krakus, the founder of the city.

Smok wawelski is interpreted as a 5-6 m predatory, bipedal animal with a 50-60 cm skull. This makes it potentially the largest predatory Archosaur from the Late Triassic; both the Theropod Dinosaurs and the Crocodilians were to produce far larger predators, but this was yet to come. The precise affinities of Smok wawelski are not determined in this paper, as the animal will the subject of a more detailed study by Grzegorz Niedźweidzki as the subject of his Ph.D. thesis. There are a number of trackways in the vicinity which appear to have been left by a large bipedal animal and may be attributed to Smok wawelski.

Skeletal reconstruction of Smok wawelski. Niedźweidzki et al. (2011).

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