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243-million-year-old reptile was vegan before it was cool

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World Tech Today shares National Geographic’s latest fossil discovery of an ancient algae loving vegan.

A 243-million-year-old fossil of a species named Atopodentatus unicus, the Latin Harry Potter spell sounding translation of “unique peculiar teeth,” was found in the Yunnan Province of southwestern China. Contrary to research from 2014 that assumed this hammerhead shark-like creature would dine on small crustaceans, they’re now calling the reptile an “underwater lawnmower.”


Photograph by W. Gao, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology

Nick Fraser, a paleontologist at the National Museum of Scotland, said they “were blown away by this.” If found to be correct, it would make this species the first vegan marine reptile. In the earlier fossil, a slight disfiguration in it’s skull had researchers assuming tightly packed teeth would be great for prey. Now, they surmise those large front teeth would loosen algae from the ocean floor, and then be used to filter food and water through. No doubt, it would have only had a big leafy green stuck in it’s teeth if someone was around to take it’s picture.

Predicted to have lived six million years following the largest extinctions in the history of our planet, the Permian extinction, scientists say it may have adapted to take advantage of new food sources. With nothing like it alive today, those getting to know Atopodentatus unicus are excited for what’s to come. “We are finding new species all the time, and once we have got a few more under our belt, we might be able to start putting together a little bit more about the ecosystem and how the whole thing interacts.  There is huge potential for so much more to be done, and this is possibly just the tip of the iceberg” Fraser told World Tech Today.

No word on if this mammal shared a vegan meal with this vegan prehistoric bird, but we think that’d make a pretty decent animated movie premise.

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