Finally, Slovakia has a skeleton of a reptile from the Mesozoic period, the era of dinosaurs! These are remnants of a reptile from the formation of the Guttenstein limestones in the Demänovská dolina Valley. Their age falls within the epoch of the Middle Triassic, thus they are ca. 245 Ma old (Upper Anisian). This makes them to be the absolutely oldest known vertebrate at the territory of Slovakia. The discovery was made by speleologists from the Caving Group Demänovská dolina Valley, who notified Dr. A. Čerňanský from the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Comenius University in Bratislava. He together with Mgr. J. Šurka (Slovak Academy of Sciences) and Dr. M. Olšavský (State Geological Institute of Dionýz Štúr) carefully mined the fossil from its stony grave inside the cave during two visits. Computed tomography (micro-CT) revealed the presence of nine presacral vertebrae in an anatomical position, costae, remains of pelvis, and long bones of limbs. It was a semi-aquatic reptile of comparatively small dimensions, with conspicuous similarity to members of the genus Nothosaurus whose lifestyle resembled that of recent seals, and their remnants are known, for instance, from Germany. Dark to black Guttenstein limestones of the Fatric Unit originated in a shallow-water, marine environment of a carbonate platform with evidence of storm events (tempestites). Interestingly, any kind of fossils occurs very rarely in this type of limestones. The reptile is currently being examined by Dr. A. Čerňanský and his team. The research at the locality was realized within the frame of the project APVV-14-0118.
Text: Andrej Čerňanský, Mário Olšavský and Juraj Šurka
Photo: Juraj Šurka
Translated by: Marek Vďačný