Woah, what is that?!
Paleontologists in China have discovered fossilised remains of an extremely weird looking reptile that lived in the middle Triassic, some 240 million years ago. The discovery made by a team lead by Xiao-Chun Wu represents a brand new species and genus which results were published in Naturwissenschaften.
The atopedentatus unicus belongs to the sauropterygians clan — aquatic reptiles with flippers. This particular specimen was found at the Guanling Formation in Southwest China and the fossilised skeleton was almost perfect, except for the ride side of the skull which was missing. From tip to tail, the organism was about 3 meters long.
Additionally, atopedentatus unicus’ smile might be the stuff of nightmares as it has hundreds of needle-like teeth arranged in a comb pattern. However, in the middle of the upper jaw, there is also a vertical set of 35 more of those narrow choppers that is similar to a cleft lip and palate, but lined with needle teeth. The name of the genus, Atopodentatus translates into disturbing teeth while unicus describes the unique way the teeth are arranged in the skull.
Scientists speculate that the set-up of the dentition was an important adaptation that allowed the organism to filter feed at the bottom of the sea. These animals most likely fed on sea worms and other tiny microorganisms.