A team of researchers from Carleton University says a recent fossil discovery in Nova Scotia represents the earliest known examples of a creature exhibiting the behavior of one parent.
The results were recently published in the journal Ecology and Evolution of Nature and details the discovery of a large and small lizard-like reptile known as the varanopid synapside. The creatures were found at the root of a tree trunk in Cape Breton.
The smaller reptile is positioned under the rear leg of the larger reptile, indicating that the two were sharing the same hiding place, according to the researchers.
"This is the earliest evidence of extended postnatal care in a vertebrate," Hillary Maddin, principal researcher and professor at Carleton University, said in a press release.
“The adult animal seems to be hiding and protecting a youngster in a lair. Today this behavior is very common in mammals. It is interesting to see this animal, which is in the evolutionary line leading to mammals, exhibiting this behavior so early. "
The researchers said the preserved skeletons of both reptiles have unique characteristics and represent a new species.
The fossils predate what was previously thought to be the first such discovery in 40 million years and could help explain the evolution of parents, the researchers said.
Brian Hebert, who collaborated on the project, hopes the discovery will also lead to further study in Nova Scotia.
"This discovery shows that Nova Scotia still has many incredible secrets to uncover in its fossil record," he said.
"I hope the Nova Scotian government appreciates how discoveries like these can add to the province, not only scientifically, but also in terms of tourism and economically. I'm excited to work with Hillary since we met. I knew she would appreciate the little places." known in Nova Scotia and how they can change the way we see the world. ”