China salamander fossils said oldest ever

March 13, 2012 at 3:53 PM
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BEIJING, March 13 (UPI) -- Fossils of salamanders found in an ancient dry lakebed in China are the oldest of their kind, researchers say, dating to around 157 million years ago.

The specimens, given the name Beiyanerpeton jianpingensis, were found in Liaoning province in an area known as the Tiaojishan Formation, reported Tuesday.

Researchers Ke-Qin Gao from Peking University and Neil H. Shubinb of the University of Chicago identified them as the oldest Salamandroidea specimens ever found.

The fossils resemble modern salamanders, with long bodies and tails and short legs, they said.

The age of the fossils suggests these salamanders diverged from others of their kind earlier than had been previously thought, as the dating places them in the Jurassic period and beats the previous record of the oldest known salamander by 40 million years, the researchers said.

The specimens as exceptionally well preserved, they said, due to their being embedded in volcanic ash that covered the dry lakebed.

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