This Strange Fossil Finding is Right out of the World of Dr. Seuss (or a Horror Movie)
In early May, scientists announced and released a discovery in southern China of reptilian fossils from roughly 242 million years ago. The only catch? It looks so outlandish and silly it’s a wonder it isn’t a hoax!
The animal has been dubbed the “Atopodentatus”, and if you recognize the “dent” in the name as it relates to teeth, you might realize how big of a deal this creature’s mouth is. It is a bewildering, crocodile-sized plant-eating sea-dweller. The creature was first discovered in 2014, and, originally, it was thought to have a mouth like a flamingo’s beak. However, the new fossil findings from May suggest something a little more…odd.
Paleontologist Nicholas Fraser said, “On a scale of weirdness, I think this is up there with the best. It kind of reminds me of some of the Dr. Seuss creations,”
It used its chisel-like teeth which lay along the edge of its blunt and hammer-shaped snout, to scrape algae off of hard underwater surfaces like rocks. After the scraping section, “Atopodentatus” quickly opens its mouth to create suction before closing its jaws and filtering the plant material through its densely packed, needle-sharp teeth. This is similar to how baleen whales strain krill from sea water.
Atopodentatus was roughly 9 feet long, lived in the shallow sea around China’s Yunnan province alongside fish and marine reptiles. It lived during he Triassic Period shortly after the biggest mass extinction in Earth’s history.