German palaeontologists have uncovered well preserved impressions of an early dinosaur, revealing a relatively small species similar to an iguana that lived 290 million years ago.
Excavations near the eastern city of Chemnitz found impressions where the scales, bones, pelvis and skull with eye sockets could readily be recognized, natural history museum officials said. The long tail was particularly remarkable, DPA reported.
"Like an iguana, this species apparently lived in trees. The long claws indicate this," Thorid Zierold said, adding that the find was like hitting the lottery jackpot.
The small dinosaurs probably also got their food from trees. The discovery was made in a petrified forest in the area created by a prehistoric volcanic outburst that covered plant and animal life with a thick layer of hot ash, preserving them for posterity. The impressions are currently being prepared for permanent display.
The forest has yielded earlier discoveries, leading to a major excavation project lasting from 2008 to 2010. The most recent find was by pure chance and was made while the excavations were being filled in with earth after completion.
Among the finds during the two-year project were 550 petrified tree stumps and branches, 48 of which were still standing upright.
Two millipedes and hundreds of prehistoric snails were among the prehistoric treasures uncovered by around 200 excavation assistants. Also found was a petrified Equisetum, or horse tail. The plant, which survives into the modern era, is often referred to as a living fossil.