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Reptiles who ruled the Earth before dinosaurs expected to bring more tourists to Russia

November 20, 2017, 15:38 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The first two skeletons of the ancient reptiles were unearthed near Kotelnich in 1933

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© Polina Byanova/TASS

MOSCOW, November 20. /TASS/. The Kirov Region, central Russia, is planning to create a new tourist route to tell its visitors about the history of Pareiasaurs, fossil reptiles who roamed the Earth some 260 million years ago, long before dinosaurs emerged.

Archaeologists have been founding Pareiasaur fossils near the town of Kotelnich, on the clay bank of the Vyatka River, for several decades.

"They flourished in the Permian period in just two regions, Kotelnich and Karoo plateau in South Africa," said Natalia Spitsyna, the head of the local museum of paleontology.

According to Spitsyna, most paleontologists travel to the Kirov Region as the fossils here are better preserved than in South Africa.

Tourists will be offered to visit excavation sites as part of a two-day trip to Kirov and Kotelnich.

"On the first day they will visit Kotelnich, the sites where fossils were found, its museum with a unique collection of fossils and the local Dino Park," said Irina Bazhina of the regional tourism development center. "On the second day they will travel to Kirov and visit the modern paleontological museum and a park featuring life-size sculptures of dinosaurs."

The Kotelnich museum has no replicas. Therocephalians, cynodonts, gorgonopsians, anomodonts, dicynodonts, a Mastodonsaurus, Tarbosaurus and Ankylosaurus - all of these fossils were discovered near Kotelnich.

The Kotelnich museum also boasts a unique item, a skeleton of a baby Pareiasaur.

The first two skeletons of the ancient reptiles were unearthed near Kotelnich in 1933 by a local hydrogeologist who was drilling for water wells.

An expedition led by prominent paleontologist Alexandra Gartman-Veinberg arrived in the Kirov Region next year.

"The South African plateau was considered the only place on Earth where Pareiasaur fossils had been found but Gartman-Veinberg found two skulls and took them to Moscow. She thought that the reptiles migrated to the Kirov Region from South Africa," Spitsyna said.

Eleven full Pareiasaur skeletons were unearthed in the region by Moscow paleontologists in the next 14 years but none of them was preserved.

Pareiasaurs were large and awkward herbivores who measured to 2.5 meters in length, who most likely lived in damp lowlands. Sometimes they got trapped in mud and slowly died.

According to Spitsyna, the fossils are so well-preserved due to these mud traps.

Most fossils were found at the so-called Sokolya Gora, a site on the steep bank of the Vyatka River. All excavation work is carried out here from May to October when the water level declines.

Archeologists are also planning to come to Sokolya Gora, which was inhabited from the 5th century BC.

An environment-friendly tourist center is currently under construction near Sokolya Gora.

"The visitors will be able to see the scientists at work and even take part in the process," said Irina Bazhina.

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