Ancient 'hammerhead' underwater reptile was first marine vegetarian: Study

Ancient 'hammerhead' underwater reptile was first marine vegetarian: Study

The undiscovered marine habitat of deep sea is a home of some of the strange species that tell a lot about Earth's biggest mass extinction.

A group of scientists uncovered a bizzare fossil of 'hammerheaded' crocodile-shaped sea dwelling reptile in southern China.

According to them the reptile that lived 242 million years ago was the first marine herbivorous.

The reptile was named Atopodentatus Unicus 'unique and strange toothed' and beak shapped jawline.

The study published in Science Advances reveals that the first sample of this plant eating reptile was discovererd in 2014. Its head was poorly preserved, but it seemed to have a flamingo-like beak. But in this new paper, paleontologists reveal what was really going on.

That "beak" is actually part of a hammerhead-shaped jaw apparatus, which it used to feed on plants on the ocean floor. It's the earliest known example of an herbivorous marine reptile.

"It's a very strange animal," says co-author Olivier Rieppel, Rowe Family Curator of Evolutionary Biology at The Field Museum in Chicago. "It's got a hammerhead, which is unique, it's the first time we've seen a reptile like this.

"To figure out how the jaw fit together and how the animal actually fed, we bought some children's clay, kind of like Play-Doh, and rebuilt it with toothpicks to represent the teeth," says Rieppel. "We looked at how the upper and lower jaw locked together, and that's how we proceeded and described it." 

(With ANI inputs)