Unprecedented Fossil from China Reveals Ancient Marine Reptile Adapting to Filter Feeding 250 Million Years Ago

Category Science

tldr #

Researchers from China and the UK have uncovered new details about an ancient marine reptile known as Hupehsuchus which lived around 250 million years ago. The hupehsuchians possessed adaptations in their skull that allowed them to filter feed, resembling modern baleen whales. These adaptations allowed the reptile to thrive in its aquatic environment and were part of a rapid re-population of the oceans after the end-Permian mass extinction.

content #

A remarkable new fossil from China reveals for the first time that a group of reptiles was already using whale-like filter feeding 250 million years ago, according to a recent study published in BMC Ecology and Evolution. The findings shed light on the creature's feeding habits and its role in transforming marine ecosystems during a time in Earth's history of significant upheaval.

Researchers from China and the UK have uncovered fascinating details about an ancient marine reptile known as Hupehsuchus. This reptile, which lived around 248 million years ago during the Early Triassic period, possessed unique adaptations in its skull, such as soft structures, that allowed it to thrive in its aquatic environment. "We were amazed to discover these adaptations in such an early marine reptile," said Zichen Fang of the Wuhan Center of China Geological Survey, who led the research, in a press release. "The hupehsuchians were a unique group in China, close relatives of the ichthyosaurs, and known for fifty years, but their mode of life was not fully understood," Fang added.

The two new Hupehsuchus specimens represent the first unambiguous use of filter feeding among reptiles 250 million years ago

Two Hupehsuchus skulls revealed grooves and notches along their jaws, mirroring the characteristics of modern baleen whales. The long snout was composed of unfused, straplike bones with a significant gap between them. This construction resembled the loose structure seen in modern baleen whales. The snout's flexibility allows baleen whales to engulf small prey by ballooning out their throat region as they swim forward. Li Tian from the University of Geosciences Wuhan, another collaborator, added that the absence of teeth in Hupehsuchus was a significant clue.

The end-Permian mass extinction wiped out nearly all large-sized animals

The resemblance between the skull features of Hupehsuchus and baleen whales is a remarkable discovery, considering the evolutionary time gap between the two.

What happened after the Great Dying? Collaborator Professor Michael Benton of the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences explained that the hupesuchians were part of a vast and rapid re-population of the oceans. He emphasized these adaptations showcase the remarkable ways ancient marine creatures adapted to their environment and evolved unique mechanisms for survival and feeding. "This was a time of turmoil, only three million years after the huge end-Permian mass extinction which had wiped out most of life," Benton said. "It's been amazing to discover how fast these large marine reptiles came on the scene and entirely changed marine ecosystems of the time." .

Hupehsuchus adapted to their aquatic environment by possessing unique adaptations in their skull

The complete study was published in BMC Ecology and Evolution on August 8 and can be found here.

hashtags #
worddensity #