plants and animals

Weird fossil of the week: Atopodentatus

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Nick
Garland

Founder and Editor
With a face that only an egg-laying mother could love (and then immediately leave), Atopodentatus is one of the weirdest reptiles ever to have lived.
Let's just get this right out of the way. Atopodentatus had one messed-up mug. Its upper jaw was split in the middle and lined with small teeth on each side of the gap. If Atopodentatus were a body louse, Cthulhu would be its host.

But Atopodentatus didn't have much of a taste for blood. It's teeth are too small and fragile to actively take down prey like fish and it probably couldn't exert much force with its jaws. The reptile may have tilted its head to trawl the bottom of shallow coastal areas and, like a sieve, trapped small invertebrates behind its toothy gap. It was a 10-foot-long filter feeder similar to a baleen whale. All teeth and no bite.

The fossil hails from Luoping, China, where a massive haul of specimens has shown that this bizarre marine reptile from 245 million years ago was in good company. Ichthyosaurs, long-necked Dinocephalosaurus, sea urchins and isopods have been unearthed in the same area. Atopodentatus unicus can take comfort at least in being the weirdo king of this Triassic menagerie.

If you think Atopodenttus is weird, we are actually just getting warmed up. Stayed tuned for more fantastic creatures from deep time.

More links:
Lovecraftian analysis of Atopodentatus
Atopodentatus Will Blow Your Mind by Brian Switek
Image Credit: Nobu Tamura

5c3e0c5dff4b84c2d89b8da7be5adf3e

Nick
Garland

Founder and Editor


http://sulc.us/kocwc
http://www.eartharchives.org/articles/weird-fossil-of-the-week-atopodentatus/