In Southern China, researchers discovered fossils of a reptile that features a ‘hammerhead’ snout — a very wide, somewhat comical jaw that extends beyond the diameter of its own head. The fossils are 242 million years old, and they belong to a creature dubbed Atopodentatus unicus, a reptile that would feed on algae and lived in the sea. The fossils were first discovered in 2014, but the discovery was only made public today.
In describing the creature, shown above as an artist’s representation of what it may have looked like, National Museums Scotland 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.” Aside from its mouth, the reptile looks somewhat like a crocodile.
The mouth and snout, as freaky as they may be, were pretty functional for the reptiles — the snout would be used as scrapers, essentially, to scrap up algae for the reptile to feast on. The mouth, then, would open and the jaws would then close, pulling algae into what the researchers describe as needle-like, densely packed teeth.
The reptile was not small at about 9ft in length, and it would have been found in the more shallow parts of the sea. With the discovery, Atopodentatus has become the earliest known herbivorous marine reptile; it lived during the Triassic Period. This isn’t the only reptile species uncovered thanks to some fossils — check out the timeline below for a similar story!