Dinosaurs living more than 200 million years ago may have dominated the plains and pastures of prehistoric Earth, but they still have some competition.
Scientists on Thursday unveiled the discovery of a giant elephant-like reptile mammal, which according to them rubbed shoulders with large dinosaurs from the Triassic era, including relatives of sauropods such as Dididocus and Brachyosurus.
Researchers from Polish and Swedish universities have said that the 10-ton critters – a distant "cousin" of today's mammals – evoke the idea that dinosaurs are the only large terrestrial animals at a time when Earth had a huge earth mass known as Pangea.
They discovered fossil remains belonging to the previously unknown species of dicinon, grazing animals ranging in size from small beetles to large grazing plants, and which were predominantly toothless.
All mammals, including humans, originate from dicinonides, regardless of their origin from reptiles.
They manage to survive the mass extinction, known as the "Great Dying" about 250 million years ago, which killed 90 percent of the Earth's species.
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But it was thought that the Dynonnotes had disappeared before the late Triassic period, during which time dinosaurs became the dominant earthly being.
The analysis of the bones of the limbs, found in the Polish village of Lysuvice, shows that the creature – the Lysavice rich – lived about 210-205 million years ago – about 10 million years later than the previous discoveries of dicinonides.
"The discovery of Lisovision changes our ideas for the latest story of the painful relatives of Triassic Hospital, which also raises many more questions about what makes them and the dinosaurs so big," said Tomasz Sulay of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
"Such an important new species is a discovery that has ever been in life."
The study, published in the journal Science, said that Lisowicia would be 40% larger than any already identified dicynodont.
"Dicinonones are amazingly successful animals in the Middle and the Triassic," said Gregor Nedjievski of Sweden's Uppsala University.
"Lissovision is extremely exciting because it blows holes in many of our classic reptile ideas, like Triassic mammals."