In 1989, paleontologist Bill Mueller from Texas Tech University along with amateur collector Emmet Shedd discovered a peculiar fossilized skeleton in the Cooper Canyon Formation in Garza County, Texas. Mueller passed away in 2019, leaving behind several unfinished projects, one of which was the identification of those strange fossils. The project has since been taken over by William Reyes, a paleontologist and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, and new information about the mysterious fossils is now available.

The new species has been identified as, Garzapelta muelleri. It is considered an Aetosaur, a heavily armored, medium-to-large-sized reptile from the Late Triassic period. Aetosaurs are derived from a branch of Archosaurs and are said to be even more closely related to crocodilians than they are to birds. Aetosaurs lived among wet and swampy portions of Pangea, and are said to have had the snout of a pig, the body of a crocodile, and the skull of a bird. Researchers believe they are not only omnivores but herbivores as well.

Aetosaur fossils have been discovered across the globe, not just in the Texas area. This particular aetosaur was found with its carapace, a protective outer shell, similar to that of a turtle. This key portion of the fossil provided researchers with new information and they now believe they are dealing with a brand new group of aetosaurs.

Pretty exciting, huh? Eagle lizards are putting Garza County on the map!

To learn more about this new species, head over to Newsweek. 

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