Big Bite: Quick Bite

Today on Museum Quick Bites we’re winding the clock back to the Mesozoic Era and taking a brief look at a toothy, big jawed creature called Metoposaurus. Don’t be fooled by Metoposaurus’ name, this predator is all amphibian.

Metoposaurus Skull (Triassic Period) Michigan State University Museum, photo by cjverb (2021)

Check out this Metoposaurus fossil on display at the Michigan State University Museum. Note its flat, pitted, triangular-shaped skull. Measuring up to 10 feet long, Metoposaurus had short legs, a long body, and a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth. This wily amphibian lived in and around shallow lakes and ponds where it ambushed and devoured prey such as fish, fellow amphibians, and possibly small dinosaurs and mammals.

Left: Metoposaurus, Warsaw Museum of Evolution photo by Shalom Wikimedia Commons

Right: Metoposaurus skull, University of Alberta Laboratory for Vertebrate Paleontology (UALVP)

photo by Jeyradan, Wikimedia Commons

In 2009, a treasure trove of Metoposaurus fossils was discovered in the Algarve region of Portugal. Paleontologists have described the Metoposaurus algarvensis as a “super salamander” or “salamander on steroids”, with huge hinged jaws that snapped shut like a toilet seat. One of my family members thought Metoposaurus resembled Blinky from Pac-Man fame. Monster salamander? Toilet seat? Pac Man ghost? What do you see?

Left: Blinky the Pac-Man Ghost by Pixy

Right: Metoposaurus Skull (Triassic Period) Michigan State University Museum, photo by cjverb (2021)

Metoposaurus thrived during the Triassic Period however, it along with 76% of land and marine life were wiped out during the Triassic-Jurassic Extinction (also called the end-Triassic Extinction) approximately 201 million years ago. There is debate as to the cause of this extinction event, but these deaths paved the way for the eventual rise of the dinosaurs during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. If you’d like to learn more click on this Triassic-Jurassic Extinction link, courtesy of Britannica. If you’d like to learn more about the Metoposaurus algarvensis dig, click on this Metoposaurus link courtesy of The Conversation.

Fun Froggy Fact: Amphibians, like frogs, toads, and salamanders, lay their shell-less eggs in water or wet areas, and have thin skin that must stay moist in order for them to breathe. Reptiles, like turtles, lizards, snakes, crocodiles, and alligators have tough, dry, scaly skin and lay their hard-shelled eggs on land.

Fire Salamander, Pixabay

That wraps up our look at Metoposaurus. I’ll be back next week with more Museum Quick Bites, until then be safe, be kind, and take care 🙂

Cover photo by mariuszopole, courtesy of Pixabay.


Britannica: Amphibian
Britannica: End-Triassic Extinction
LiveScience: Giant Amphibian Ruled Ancient Rivers (2015)
Michigan State University Museum
National Geographic: Paleontologists Uncover “Super Salamander” Boneyard (2015)
Smithsonian Magazine: Toothed Car-Sized Ancient Amphibians Found in Mass Grave (2015)
The Conversation: Meet the Super Salamander that Nearly Ate Your Ancestors for Breakfast (2015)
Wikimedia Commons: Metoposaurus

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