Researchers have reported discovering a new species that eerily resembles the squirrel-like character from Dreamworks franchise Ice Age.
Because of its tremendous resemblance, paleontologists even thought of naming the recently revealed species Scrat, honoring the renowned character of the animated film. However, after careful consideration, they finally named it Pseudotherium argentinus, meaning false Theria from Argentina.
Scrat lived 230 million years ago
The ancient species grew up to 25 centimeters in length and was found in Argentina’s Ischigualasto Provincial Park, which is also where two of the oldest dinosaur remains were found.
Dr. Ricardo Martínez, a researcher at the Institute and Museum of Natural Sciences of the University of San Juan (IMCN), told CTyS-UNLaM: “The new species has a very long and flat, shallow snout, and its fangs are very long and are located almost at the tip of the snout, so the resemblance is tremendous.”
The skull was surprisingly well preserved, so that, at a glance, the similarity can be verified. “At some point, I thought of calling it Scrat,” said Martinez, who conducted a very thorough study of the creature’s skull alongside Rachel Wallace and Timothy Rowe of the University of Texas.
The study was recently published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
Martinez, who has found and cataloged dozens of species discovered the miniature creature together with two new species of primitive dinosaurs. The fossilized remains of the creatures were taken to the Museum so that paleontologists are later able to study them in greater detail.
According to experts, Scrat lived around 230 million years ago.
Trapped not Frozen
This creature, unlike Scrat from the Ice Age movie, was frozen in time and not in ice. Pseudotherium argentinus became trapped in the iconic, multicolored rocks of Ischigualasto, a location in the San Juan province of northwestern Argentina that is recognized across the world for its various, well-preserved dinosaur fossils.
There, in an area also known as the Valley of the Moon, the Triassic Period “Scrat” waited to be discovered next to the fossilized remains of a Panphagia dinosaur, one of the oldest known sauropodomorphs known today, and near the femur of the first and only lagerpetid protodinosaurus discovered in San Juan.
All three were found by Martinez back in 2006, sparking more than a decade of study, cataloging, and analysis, which would eventually lead to the recent reveal.
Scrat is believed to have lived during a time when the climate on Earth was much warmer even compared to our current environment.
The Triassic is the first and shortest period of the Mesozoic Era. Curiously, both the start and end of the period are marked by major extinction events. It was during this era when almost all of our planets land mass was concentrated into a single super-continent that was most likely centered on the equator, spanning from pole to pole. This supercontinent was Pangea.
Unlike the environment Scar is depicted living in the Ice Age movies, its recently revealed lookalike, Pseudotherium Argentinus lived during a time when there was no ice at or near the poles. In fact, researchers say that during the Triassic the poles on Earth provided a suitable climate for forests and vertebrates.