Oldest Running Reptile

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

Scientists have reported finding the complete remains of the first reptile to stand up and walk on two legs. The scientists say this creature lived almost three-hundred-million years ago. That is at least sixty-million years before the first dinosaurs appeared on Earth.

An international team of scientists reported the discovery this month in the publication Science. The scientists found the fossil remains of the ancient creature in central Germany. They say Eudibamus (YOU-DA- BAY-MUS) cursoris (CUR- SORE-US) is the oldest known member of a major group of early reptiles. However, it does not appear to be directly linked to more modern reptiles, including some dinosaurs and lizards.

Eudibamas was very small. It was less than twenty-eight centimeters long. It weighed less than one-half kilogram. It ate only plants.

Robert Reisz (RICE) of the University of Toronto in Canada was part of the team that recovered the fossils. Professor Reisz says the fossils are the oldest to show a creature standing up and running on two legs.

The scientists say the creature's running position was similar to that of humans. They say Eudibamas appears to be the earliest known four-legged creature to move in this way. Evidence for this comes from studying the length of the creature's legs and tail.

David Berman also was a member of the team. Mr. Berman works at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He says Eudibamas was able to move quickly by extending its legs and pointing its knees forward. He says this probably helped it run away from larger, meat-eating creatures.

Eudibamas was discovered eight years ago. The scientists found the remains in an area of sandstone rock in what was once part of East Germany.

Mr. Berman says that until now only pieces of the ancient reptile had been discovered. He says scientists found many of those pieces in the United States. Mr. Berman says the discovery of a complete fossil in Germany provides strong evidence that the Earth was once one huge area of land.

Some scientists say this landmass broke up and later moved in different directions. They say the separate landmasses formed the Earth's continents.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by George Grow.