Scientists report world’s first herbivorous filter-feeding marine reptile

Some strange creatures cropped up in the wake of one of Earth’s biggest mass extinctions 252 million years ago. In 2014, scientists discovered a bizarre fossil–a crocodile-sized sea-dwelling reptile, Atopodentatus unicus, that lived 242 million years ago in what today is southwestern China. Its head was poorly preserved, but it seemed to have a flamingo-like beak. However, in a paper published May 6 in Science Advances, Dr. LI Chun, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his international team described two new specimens and revealed what was really going on–that “beak” is actually part of a hammerhead-shaped jaw apparatus, which it used to feed on plants on the ocean floor. It’s the earliest known example of an herbivorous marine reptile.

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(e) Science News – Paleontology & Archaeology

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