A new fossil reptile is unlike anything previously found

A new fossil reptile is unlike anything previously found

Mar 29th 2014 | From the print edition


YUNNAN province, in China, is home to the Luoping formation, a trove of spectacularly preserved fossils of creatures that roamed the seas 240m years ago, during the Triassic period. The latest—and arguably most spectacular yet—is Atopodentatus unicus, described this week in Naturwissenschaften by Long Cheng, of the Wuhan Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources, and his team.

People have been digging up and classifying prehistoric reptiles for more than two centuries, so it might be reasonable to suppose that all the main groups would by now have been identified. Atopodentatus unicus suggests this is not true, for it resembles no other known fossil. Its limbs seem to have evolved into paddles, suggesting it was indeed aquatic, but its toe bones look adapted for walking, as they resemble those in hoofed animals. Also, its pelvis is unusually solid and well-structured for a creature which could rely on the water’s buoyancy to counterbalance the force of gravity. Then there is its head, which is tiny, shovel-shaped and armed with more than 175 teeth, outwardly needlelike and inwardly bladelike, arranged in a way reminiscent of a comb.

And a comb is just what Dr Long thinks they were. But not a comb for grooming. He believes Atopodentatus unicuscombed the seabed, and probably also beaches and mudflats exposed at low tide, for buried creatures such as worms. It would have taken in mouthfuls of sand or mud and squeezed them back out through its teeth, trapping its prey in the comb as it did so in the way that a baleen whale traps krill.

The creature’s shovel-shaped head supports this idea, for it would have been easy to push through the sediment. Its need to walk along the bottom while doing so explains the toe bones. And emergence from the water for a bit of beachcombing explains the strong pelvis. WhereAtopodentatus unicus fits into the tree of life, then, is a mystery—and a reminder of how little-understood the history of life still is.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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