Strange New Reptilian Fossil


This fossil started making the news in February and is from the Anisian age of the Middle Triassic period about 247 to 242 million years ago. It was found in Luoping County in Yunnan province, China in a well-known marine fossil area. Yunnan is an extremely mountainous province in southern China bordering Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Vietnam, and Tibet, and Luoping is a center-eastern county in the least mountainous region of the province.

It is the Atopodentatus unicus (approximately meaning “unique disturbingly weird-toothed”) and is classified as a sauropterygian (best-known for its plesiosaurs and nothosaurs). Atopodentatus had semi-aquatic adaptations but retained strong hips and legs. What sets it apart from all other reptiles is its beautiful smile.

Atopodentatus 1 

Atopodentatus 2

Atopodentatus 3

Illustration 1 is from the National Geographic by Julius Csotonyi.

Illustration 2 is by Nobu Tamura, 2014.

Illustration 3 is by MALvit, 2014.

In spite of having needle-like teeth, Atopodentatus was incapable of biting hard or holding small prey, and is suspected to have been a filter feeder. The teeth in the center of the upper mandible have been described as “comb-like” or “zipper-like”, and the mouth has been compared to that of a flamingo.

There are several interesting articles with the more technical ones at the bottom:

Atopodentatus Will Blow Your Mind

Atopodentatus unicus: Bizarre New Fossil Reptile Discovered in China

The nesting of Atopodentatus unicus

I’m Not Sure That Name Is Appropriate

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8 responses to “Strange New Reptilian Fossil

  1. Pingback: New Nothosaurus fossil in museum | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. This one may even replace my current favorite, opabinia:

  3. This is a weird one. I like it but weird. Thanks for providing links. 🙂 I wonder about all the animals we will never know about because lack of fossil evidence.

    • Fortunately, there will never be an end of things to discover or learn about. When I was a kid, I decided I was going to learn everything there is to know. I regret that I haven’t gotten there yet. The irony is that the more you learn, the more you find out how little you know.

      I just read about your house. Hope it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but the cynic in me knows better than that.

      • Yeah, I think we don’t realize how much we don’t know. It’s fun to keep learning. The house..I dare not ask what’s next. 🙂 Thanks. Another a challenge. 😀

  4. I wonder if this is one made it in to the new Noah movie.

    • I doubt it, since the film apparently didn’t even include unicorns, which Ken Ham will put in his Ark Encounter if he ever starts building it. After all, they’re in the KJV Bible, so they had to have been on the ark, and Ken will put anything mentioned there on his ark.

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