The Unique Atopodentatus unicus
As the new for 2019 PNSO figures arrive at Everything Dinosaur, we have time to reflect on one of the new models. The replica of the bizarre Triassic marine reptile Atopodentatus (A. unicus). Although Atopodentatus was named and scientifically described less than five years ago, this three-metre-long tetrapod has certainly attracted a great deal of debate. Where it sits phylogenetically has yet to be resolved. Tentatively, it could be placed within the Sauropterygia. The Sauropterygia is an extremely diverse Superorder of reptiles. It includes the placodonts, plesiosaurs, nothosaurs and the Pachypleurosauria.*
The New for 2019 PNSO Atopodentatus Model
Pachypleurosauria* – PNSO have also introduced a pachypleurosaur into their “Prehistoric Animal Toys That Accompany Your Growth” range, one of the twenty-four new models is “Ricky” the Keichousaurus.
Atopodentatus – At First it was a Filter Feeder
The fossil material associated with this genus comes from south-western China (Guanling Formation). The strata are thought to be Middle Triassic in age (Anisian faunal stage) and these marine deposits have helped scientists to construct a picture of how life bounced back from the devastating End Permian extinction event. When first described, Atopodentatus was thought to feed by stirring up mud on the seabed to filter out small invertebrates. The rostrum was thought to be downturned, resulting in this reptile having a vertical, zipper-like jaw.
A Life Reconstruction of Atopodentatus unicus (2014)
Picture credit: Nobu Tamura (2014)
To read Everything Dinosaur’s article about the original scientific description of Atopodentatus: Bizarre New Triassic Marine Reptile Described.
A Marine Reptile with a “Hammerhead”
Turns out, Atopodentatus did not have such a unique and highly specialised feeding adaptation after all, but it is nonetheless, quite remarkable. Additional specimens led to a new interpretation of the shape of the skull and rather than having a downturned rostrum, Atopodentatus had a set of jaws shaped like a hammerhead. It was proposed that Atopodentatus was herbivorous. The teeth lining the hammerhead were used to scrape seaweed and algae from rocks. The plant material was then sucked into the back of the mouth and filtered by the long, thin tooth mesh.
Atopodentatus Life Reconstruction (2016)
Picture credit: Y. Chen (Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology)
To read Everything Dinosaur’s 2016 article about the reinterpretation of Atopodentatus: Atopodentatus Unzipped.
Atopodentatus unicus still had a highly specialised feeding adaptation, although one not quite a peculiar as previously thought. It still represents the oldest record of herbivory within marine reptiles and its discovery has helped scientists to better understand how marine ecosystems recovered after the End Permian extinction event.
Remarking on the addition of an Atopodentatus to the PNSO model range, a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:
“As a Chinese company, PNSO have attempted to focus on prehistoric animals that lived in China. This has resulted in a whole new and never before created set of prehistoric animal replicas such as Atopodentatus and Keichousaurus. Thanks to PNSO, Everything Dinosaur customers now have an even greater variety of prehistoric animal models to collect.”
The New for 2019 PNSO “Finch” – Atopodentatus Figure
To view the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs range: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs.
Visit the Everything Dinosaur homepage: Everything Dinosaur.