Scientists have found what they believe is a new creature previously unknown in China that resembles a hammerhead crocodile with a crazy jaw that contained rows and rows of needle teeth despite the scientists belief that the the creature was likely a plant eater.
Reconstructing the jaw of the “crocodile”
The author of the study was on Nick Fraser, who is an expert of Triassic animals at the National Museum of Scotland. His findings and the reconstructing of the jaw and head with colored putty was published recently in the journal Science Advances.
Fraser believes that reptile used this strange almost harmonica shaped mouth to scrape algae and plants from underwater rocks.
“By gulping in this liquid mix of plant matter and sea water, the animal could close its mouth,” Fraser said, “and, using its tongue, force the water out of the side off the mouth and across the filter formed by the needle-shaped teeth.”
This work by Fraser refutes earlier work by scientists that that suggest that Atopodentatus unicus was even stranger in appearance with a snout that fit together vertically best described as resembling the teeth of a zipper. Li Chun, a paleontologist at Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in China found this untenable but the fossil that he was working with was not really viable as it was poorly preserved and also a damaged specimen.
New fossils provide answers
However, Fraser and his colleagues now have a much better idea of what the Atopodentatus unicus looked like owing to the discovery of the new fossils.
“We’re certain we have this particular aspect of the animal correctly,” said Fraser. He did, however, make it quite clear that they still know very little about the lizard that predated dinosaurs and is a rare case of a reptilian herbivore. There are very few cases of these animals in present biology, in fact there are only two: the green turtle and the marine iguana.
While the scientist involved in the study that was published last week, there still remain a number of mysteries. Juvenile life of the creature is a blank slate and the researchers have no idea about the mating habits of this lizard.