Fossil Friday: Eocaecilia

About 15cm long, or 6″

Species: Eocaecilia micropodia (Ee-oh-say-see-lee-ah my-crow-poe-dee-ah)

What it means: Dawn Caecilian

Other Species: None

Where I live: Arizona in the U.S.A.- The Kayenta formation

When to find me: The Early Jurassic period, about 196 million years ago.

My favorite food: Tiny insects and crawling things in the mud and leaf litter.

My neighborhood: The Kayenta formation used to be a tropical floodplain, a bit like African savannah today- but no grass or flowers. Ferns cover the open plains, dotted with islands of spiky cycad groves. Rivers crisscross the land with lush tree ferns, ginkgo trees, and conifers. Every year during the wet season the plains turn into a flooded marsh, but the hottest months bring no rain, and the rivers shrink until the plains are almost as dry as the great desert that lies to the north.

A few of my neighbors: I like to hang close to the river, where there’s more rotting leaves and cool mud to find the creepy crawlies I eat. The frogs are friendly, but I have to watch out for turtles and crocodile cousins like Kayentasuchus, Calsoyasuchus, and Eopnomatosuchus. Sometimes I hear Rhamphinion as it flies overhead for insects like beetles, dragonflies, an ancient cousin of the moth, and something called a snakefly. I hide from all the dinosaurs like meat-eating Dilophosaurus, Kayentavenator and Coelophysis, and plant-eaters like Sarahsaurus (early sauropod) and Scutellosaurus (armored dinosaurs).

Fun Facts:

  • My modern relatives are a group of amphibians called Caecilian. A little bit like snakes, but with smooth, moist skin like frogs instead of scales. They prefer to burrow underground, and most are blind.
  • The name comes from Eos (Greek goddess of the dawn, implying an earlier ancester of the group. An educated guess since I don’t have access to the paper) + Caecilian (which means “blind ones”, from the Latin word caecus).
  • All modern caecilians are legless, like snakes, but I have tiny legs! That’s how I got my species name. Micro (Greek “mikros” means small) + poda (Greek for foot) = small foot

Fossil Finds: Very few but well-preserved fossils of almost the whole animal. The skull was so well preserved paleontologists could do a CT scan on it to discover more about the delicate brain case!

Resources:

Maddin, Hillary C et al. “The braincase of Eocaecilia micropodia (Lissamphibia, Gymnophiona) and the origin of Caecilians.” PloS one vol. 7,12 (2012): e50743. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050743

“Eocaecilia.” Prehistoric wildlifehttp://www.prehistoric-wildlife.com/species/e/eocaecilia.html

“Eocaecilia, Chinlestegophis, and Dermophis.” Reptile Evolutionhttp://www.reptileevolution.com/eocaecilia.htm

“Eocaecilia.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eocaecilia

“Caecilian.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caecilian

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