Crazy story in Science Daily today about a paper recently published in the Bulletin of the Society of Historical Integrative Tautology. The paper describes Protardosuchus incendiensis, an extinct fossil reptile whose remains were recently discovered in Holocene beach sands outside San Francisco.
The authors suggest that the strange hollow, procumbent dentition were able to expel a pair of reactive fluids which, when mixed together in the presence of atmospheric oxygen would combust. Abundant charcoal in the beach sediments which yielded the sub-fossil are seen as strong circumstantial evidence for this novel adaptation.
Some carabid beetles have developed a similar, though scaled down chemical defense mechanism while among reptiles, a number of species of cobra can spray venom from their fangs. Protardosuchus’ pyrotechnic display was apparently far more impressive. As the Science Daily piece notes, the author’s aren’t certain if this behavior was defensive or related to prey-capture:
“Seriously, dude we have no effing clue,” says Melchior Neumayr, lead researcher on the new study. “It was probably all like ‘fffshhhh’ and then all like ‘BOUSCH!’ And then, then you’re like totally toast brohan. No thanks man, thanks, but no thanks.”
Most interestingly, this discovery marks the first post-Cretaceous occurrence of a hellasaurid hellasauroid hellasauriform in North America (while most authorities consider “Ogopogo” to be a “hellasaur” sensu lato, it’s almost certainly not a true hellasauroid). It’s tempting to imagine that the mythical “dragons” of Eurasian folklore were inspired by extinct old-world protardosuchians whose remains have yet to be discovered. In fact this pan-Pacific distribution would almost certainly confirm McCarthy’s (2003) argument that the Pacific basin didn’t open until the Mesozoic. Dude, seriously.