Experts in Triassic Animals at the National Museum of Scotland developed a study, published in the Science Advances journal, about a rare fossil that was reconstructed. A reptilian skull that seemed small, ended being a rare creature with a flaring mouth, almost like hammer-like, so it was compared to hammerhead sharks. It was found near Yunnan in China.

Several rows of needle-shaped teeth were the most stunning part of the reconstructed animal. Paleontologists believe that the creature inhabited parts of an ancient sea located in China, millions of years ago. The complete skeleton was found, although it was considered by several specialists at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in China that the skull was deeply damaged and too badly preserved.

250-million-year-old fossil
A reptilian skull that seemed small, ended being a rare creature with a flaring mouth, almost like hammer-like. Credit: Birmingham UK

However, it was enough for scientists to rebuild the creature using different types of synthetic materials in order to repair the entire bones structure.

Atopodentatus Unicus

This fossil may be the first reconstruction of the extinct marine reptile from the early Middle Triassic that it’s thought to have lived between 247 and 242 million years ago. The creature is around 3 meters long, in an elongated but robust body.

There are hypothesis about how the animal functioned, considering how the jaw would close and what was the use of the teeth. Allegedly, the reptile used the mouth to trap algae and plants, in order to separate them from rocks and then it is supposed that it sucked down the mix. The tongue, scientists presumed, forced the water out of the mouth in order to not swallow a large amount of sea water. The rest of the skeleton seems similar to small dinosaurs, although the species are separated by million of years.

The Era of Dying

The existence of this creature was mostly thanks to an era known as “The Great Dying” where an incredible amount of marine species vanished but some rare creatures not only survived but actually got benefit from this great wave of death. This Atopodentatus Unicus was one of those rare species.

Source: Washington Post