- Lower Permian Age
- Odernheim, Pfalz Germany
- Specimen measures approx. 1 5/8″ long
Branchiosaurus (from Greek ‘Branchios’, meaning gills and ‘Sauros’, meaning lizard) is a genus of small, lightly built early prehistoric amphibians. Fossils have been discovered in strata dating from the late Pennsylvanian Epoch to the Permian Period.
This tiny amphibian was very similar to the Rachitomi, differing primarily in size.[clarification needed] Other distinguishing characteristics include a cartilaginous, less ossified skeleton and a shorter skull. Clear traces of gills are present in many fossilized samples, hence the name.
Originally thought to have vertebrae distinct from rachitomous vertebrae, it was placed in a separate order named Phyllospondyli (“leaf vertebrae”). Later analysis of growth stages showed increasing ossification in larger specimens, which showed that at least some of the species was the larval stage of much larger rachitomes like Eryops, while others represent paedomorphic species which retained the larval gills in adulthood.
Distribution is uncertain, though available fossils come from central Europe, most famous of which are the Permian Niederkirchen Beds around Pfalz, Germany.