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Fossils in Yunnan shed light on herbivorous marine reptile

herbivorous marine reptiles, Atopodentatus

A crocodile-sized creature that lived 242 million years ago was the first known vegetarian marine reptile, according to new fossil evidence.

据最新出土化石证据显示,一种生活在2.42亿年前鳄鱼大小的物种是最早的已知素食海洋爬行动物。

Two specimens unearthed in Yunnan, China reveal details of the animal's skull and how it fed.

两块在中国云南出土的化石标本揭示了这一史前生物的头骨形状和觅食方式。

Named Atopodentatus, scientists say its hammer-shaped skull helped it to feed on underwater plants.

科学家说,这一名为奇异滤齿龙(或独特须齿龙 Atopodentatus)的锤型头骨帮助它以海底植物为食。

Only a handful of marine reptiles, living or extinct, are known to be herbivores.

只有极少数(仍存在或已灭绝)海洋爬行动物是食草动物。

Dr Nick Fraser of National Museums Scotland, who worked on the fossil, said it belongs in the pages of a children's storybook by Dr Seuss, which depicts animals with a strange jumble of features. The reptile was "a bizarre, bizarre animal", he explained.

参与与这些化石有关工作的苏格兰国家博物馆的尼克•弗雷泽博士表示,这一“奇怪的动物”就好像是美国作家和漫画家苏斯博士儿童故事书中形容的集中了混乱特色的动物。

"We envisage it scraping algae and the like off rocks underwater.

“我们设想它在水下岩石上刮藻类植物”,他说。

"Herbivorous marine reptiles are very rare – this is the oldest record that we know of."

“食草类海洋爬行动物非常少见—这是我们所知最古老的纪录。”

Strangely toothed 齿形怪异

New fossils unearthed in China's Yunnan Province by Chun Li of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing give a detailed picture of the animal's skull.

中国科学院古脊椎动物与古人类研究所的研究员李淳在云南省发现的新化石揭示了奇异滤齿龙的头骨细节复原图。

herbivorous marine reptiles, Atopodentatus

The discoveries, unveiled in the journal, Science Advances, show that rather than having a zipper-like snout as previously thought, the animal had a wide hammer-headed jaw filled with peg-like front teeth.

李淳这一刚刚发表在《科学进展》期刊上的发现显示,该生物并不是像以前认为的那样有拉链般的吻部,而是有锤子型的下巴,口中充满细密的栅栏状牙齿。


herbivorous marine reptiles, Atopodentatus

Play-Doh 培乐多模型

Scientists used clay to make a model of the jaw to work out how the animal fed.

科学家们用粘土制作了一个像儿童玩具培乐多那样的模型,了解奇异滤齿龙如何喂食。

herbivorous marine reptiles, Atopodentatus

"To figure out how the jaw fit together and how the animal actually fed, we bought some children's clay, kind of like Play-Doh, and rebuilt it with toothpicks to represent the teeth," said co-researcher Olivier Rieppel of the Field Museum in Chicago. "We looked at how the upper and lower jaw locked together, and that's how we proceeded and described it."

芝加哥菲尔德自然历史博物馆的联合研究人员奥利维尔•瑞皮尔解释:“我们研究上颌与下颌是如何锁住的,这就是我们如何进行这一工作,然后形容它”。

He said Atopodentatus also helps tell a bigger story about the world's largest mass extinction 252 million years ago.

他说,奇异滤齿龙还有助于了解2.52亿年地球历史上已知最大规模一次大灭绝的始末。

It lived at a time when the Earth was recovering from the loss of 90% of all marine animals. 

在这种生物所生活的时期,地球正处于从丧失90%海洋哺乳动物的大灭绝中恢复的时期。

"The existence of specialised animals like Atopodentatus unicus shows us that life recovered and diversified more quickly than previously thought," he said.

瑞皮尔表示,奇异滤齿龙的存在显示,地球生命可以以比此前人们普遍推断的速度更迅捷的恢复,并进一步变得多元化。

"And it's definitely a reptile that no one would have thought to exist – look at it, it's crazy!"

“可以肯定,这种生物是人们之前从未认为存在的爬行动物。看,是不是很酷?”

2016-06-22

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