Among the oddest animals to exist just before the first dinosaurs appeared is a small reptile that lived during the Mid-Triassic around 235 million years ago. It was named Longisquama insignis, and is known from a few good and reasonably complete remains.
The fossils hail from the widely explored Madygen Formation of Kyrgyzstan. This location preserves a lakeside or riverside forest environment and is known for some exceptional remains of smaller Triassic animals like insects, other reptiles and fish. Longisquama is certainly one of the weirdest animals from the Madygen forests. Longisquama was described by Russian paleontologist Aleksandr Grigorevich Sharov in 1970, and all specimens of the animal’s fossils are currently contained in the Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.
When its fossils were discovered, it was named after a series of tall structures on its back. These odd appendages resembled a set of little hockey sticks stuck to the animal’s back. The first-known specimen, known from half a body, shows seven preserved appendages while the second-known specimen preserves five and others have far fewer. The purpose of its weird appendages was a matter of debate among paleontologists for a number of years.