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Chinese scientists research newly identified hammerhead sea creature

(People's Daily Online)    14:05, May 10, 2016

Chinese scientists have restored the image of a sea creature that was discovered in southwestern China in 2014.

The Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), together with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), recently published a paper online about the fossil of the "awl head sea monster" discovered two years ago.

The strange marine reptile fossil is quite unique. It appears to have lived in the mid-Triassic period 240 million years ago, and it possesses a very abnormal skull structure. Studies show that its maxilla grows vertically and it possesses fence-like teeth. It belongs to the filter-feeding marine reptile group. For now it has been named "singular filter-toothed dragon.”

However, since the fossil is not in very good shape, the research team has continued to look for other fossils from the same species in order to compare. After a long period of searching and then repair, two skulls almost without any deformations were uncovered from the surrounding rock. According to team leader Li Chun, the snouts of the two new specimens were not vertical, but horizontal and wide. They featured three types of teeth, including varieties for both grazing and filtering algae. The news specimens offer the earliest record of herbivorous marine reptiles.

“The structure shocked us. The exaggerated changes of the snout have been found in some prehistoric amphibians and modern hammerhead sharks, though the situation is not exactly the same. We observed this rare phenomenon for the first time in reptiles, and we call it 'hammer head,’” Li explained.

The discovery of the strange filter-toothed reptile proves that the adaptive radiation of Early Mesozoic marine reptiles is far beyond what had previously been thought. "People often think the origin of marine reptiles was in the early Triassic, but more and more new discoveries make it seem like it might be the Permian,” Li said.


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Liang Jun,Bianji)

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