Vegetarian marine monster found, as described in ScienceDaily and Science (AAAS) News 6 May 2016 and Science Advances doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1501659, 6 May 2016. A team of palaeontologists from China, UK and USA have studied the fossils of an extinct marine reptile with a most unusual hammerhead shaped skull. Another fossil of the creature was found several years ago and named Atopodentatus unicus, meaning “unique and strange toothed”. The new fossils have much better preserved skulls, which enabled scientists to reconstruct the jaws and work out how it fed.

The front part of its jaws extends sideways on both sides forming a T shape. The front edge of this is lined with peg-like teeth, but it has sharp needle-like teeth further back. The scientists believe the animal fed on plants growing on the sea floor.

Olivier Rieppel of the Field Museum in Chicago explained, “It used the peg-like front teeth to scrape plants off of rocks on the sea floor, and then it opened its mouth and sucked in the bits of plant material. Then, it used its needle-like teeth as a sieve, trapping the plants and letting the water back out, like how whales filter-feed with their baleen”.

The creature was between two and three metres long (6-10ft) and has been dated at 242 million years, making it the oldest marine vegetarian reptile. Olivier Rieppel commented: “It has similarities to other marine animals that ate plants with a filter-feeding system, but Atopodentatus is older than them by about eight million years”.

The Science News article comments: “Overall, the creature is so unusual that it’s difficult to tell where it fits on the reptile family tree, the researchers say. Because its fossils are relatively complete, palaeontologists will probably need to unearth fossils of yet-to-be-discovered relatives to better figure this out”.

Science, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: Rather than putting their faith in “yet-to-be-discovered relatives” they don’t have, palaeontologists should work on the evidence they actually do have. We predict that trying to place it in an evolutionary reptile family tree will prove a pointless exercise. There is no evidence that it used to be another kind of reptile, and no evidence it evolved into anything else.

The evidence we actually have is of a fully formed marine reptile with distinct features not seen in other marine reptiles, so it is best classified a separate kind of marine reptile, unrelated to other reptiles. Genesis 1, which tells us God made the great sea creatures according to their kinds, is a better explanation than a man-made evolutionary tree for the existence of this creature.

Genesis also provides a clue as to why it died out. When God judged the earth by sending the great flood, the sea floors would have been severely disrupted when the fountains of the great deep broke open. After the flood subsided the earth, including the sea floor, was never as good as in the original good world, and there would not have been sufficient vegetation to sustain a large plant eating creature like this one. (Ref. plesiosaurs, diet, teeth)

Evidence News vol.16. No. 9
18 May 2016
Creation Research Australia