Washington, Sept 14 (ANI): German ichnologists have discovered a sophisticated underground animal world that existed 240 million years ago in Morocco.
They believe that the burrows are the oldest examples of communal subterranean structures from a low-latitude area.
"You should imagine the tracemaker as a stout, short-bodied, four-legged animal with a short tail and short neck," lead author Sebastian Voigt, from the Institute of Geology at TU Bergakademie Freiberg, told Discovery News.
"The trunk was about 20-25 centimeters (8-10 inches) in length. We have to assume that it had five sturdy digits with claws suitable for digging into moderately soft sediment," he added.
Voigt and his colleagues studied the burrows, located in red beds of the Argana Basin in central Morocco.
"The Argana burrows do not have any equivalent in the fossil record or among extant burrowing vertebrates," said Voigt.
"Their chambers are exceptionally complex structures and two-fold winded tunnels have never been observed anywhere else," he added.
They believe that the tunnels, chambers and other structures of the middle Triassic era burrows, which pre-date dinosaurs, suggest they provided escape from predators and weather extremes.
The smooth floor of the tunnels reveals they were well used, with the animals probably gathering food, such as plants, roots and insects, at the surface during nighttime.
The study is described in the latest issue of the journal Palaios. (ANI)