Named By: L. Cheng, X. H. Chen, Q. H. Shang & X. C. Wu - 2014.
Classification: Chordata, Reptilia.
Species: A. unicus (type).
Diet: Algae feeder?
Size: About 3 meters long.
Known locations: China, Yunnan Province.
Time period: Ansian of the Triassic.
Fossil representation: Few individuals.
first named in 2014, Atopodentatus made
headlines around the
world for the bizarre and hitherto unseen jaw arrangement. At the
time of this reconstruction the jaws seemed to project forwards and
then hook down and have numerous small teeth. These small teeth were
postulated to have allowed Atopodentatus to
filter out small
invertebrates from the sea water. However, in 2016 further
specimens of Atopodentatus were discovered and
these revealed that
Atopodentatus actually didn’t have hooked over jaws
The original skull of the first discovered Atopodentatus had actually been crushed and distorted, the new skull fossils described in 2016 were not. When seen from above these gave the skull a ‘hammerhead’. ‘T-shaped’ profile with the jaws pointing out to the sides, and not hooking over like originally thought. The new jaws revealed that the small needle like teeth were actually arranged into rows which would have most likely allowed Atopodentatus to feed upon algae.
As for the rest of the body, Atopodentatus had a body that would have allowed for both swimming and movement on land. If caught in deeper water, Atopodentatus may have been hunted by large hyper-carnivorous ichthyosaurs similar in form to Himalayasaurus and Thalattoarchon (known from Asia and North America respectively), as well as large prehistoric sharks. When on land Atopodentatus may have been at risk of attack from the larger archosaurs of the time.
- A new marine reptile from the Triassic of China, with a highly specialized feeding adaptation. - Naturwissenschaften. - L. Cheng, X. H. Chen, Q. H. Shang & X. C. Wu - 2014.
-The earliest herbivorous marine reptile and its remarkable jaw apparatus - Science Advances. 2 (5) - Li Chun, Olivier Rieppel, Cheng Long & Fraser C. Nicholas - 2016