The latest evolutionary scientific discovery is the Hammerhead reptile, world’s first marine reptile.
Little by little scientists seem to uncover the mysteries of the rare marine, prehistoric world.
The most recent discovery is related to a study published last week in the Science Advances journal which documents the life of Atopodentatus Unicus.
Atopodentatus Uniqus is the earliest marine reptile known to humanity, and it was found in Yunnan Province, southwestern China.
The creature’s head is similar to that of a presently living hammerhead shark. But unlike its predecessors, whose diet includes a large variety of prey, the stingray being its favorite, the hammerhead reptile was herbivorous.
This “uniquely strange toothed” (the Latin translation of Atopodentatus Unicus) creature gives away interesting details into the life after the Permian extinction. It appears that after the mass devastation of the Great Dying, life recovered and diversified considerably quickly.
The first fossils discovered in 2014 from approximately 242 million years ago, were first thought to be that of an animal with a downturned snout whose diet was unknown. However, the findings are now interpreted to be of a reptile with a horizontal hammerhead skull.
The 2.75 meters long reptile inhabiting the sea of present day Province, China, used its teeth to scrape algae from the seafloor’s rocks and filter the remaining water, making it the second herbivorous ancient animal ever to be discovered. The other being a turtle-like creature from the Triassic called the Henodus.
The hammerhead Atopodentacus Uniqus is about 8 million years older than other marine animals discovered to use the teeth filter and eat plankton.
Also, other similar hammerhead vertebrae fossils like the Diplocaulus and Gerrothorax were found, but their head form served other functions such as lift gaining. The hammerhead reptile’s marine “lawn mower” head was directly used to trap food.
The paleontologists say they are baffled by the discovery: the underwater world back then was just very different than today’s marine fauna. There were bizarre, long, never imagined creatures struggling to regain the lost population from the carnage of the extinction and diversify.
The newest discovery of the hammerhead marine reptile certainly sheds more light on the evolution of prehistoric marine life and the resilience of life in general.
Image source: Wikimedia