An illustration of lystrosaurs with short-tailed, lizard-like bodies, tusks, and beaks. The Triassic animals are standing near a waterway in front of some mountains and ominous clouds.

Mummified, sprawling Triassic ‘shovel lizards’ look like roadkill and likely died in a drought

Around 251 million years ago, groups of pig-sized herbivores with tusks and beaks piled up, died, shrivelled and then fossilized looking like crushed road kills , with impressions of their stony skin still present in the rocks around them.

These strange layers of fossils suggest that the recurring drought was a big problem for the animals, which belonged to the genus Lystrosaurus, meaning “shovel lizard” in ancient Greek. Lystrosaurus were rare survivors of the Permian-Triassic mass extinctiona period of runaway climate change 252 million years ago that killed around 70% of terrestrial vertebrates and 96% of marine animals.

Mummified, sprawling Triassic ‘shovel lizards’ look like roadkill and likely died in a drought

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