Judging by its massive, bone-crushing teeth, giant skull, and powerful jaw, there is no doubt that the Anteosaurus, a premamalian reptile that roamed the African continent 265 to 260 million years ago – during a period known as the Middle Permian – was a ferocious predator.
However, while it was previously thought that this beast of creature – which has grown to the size of an adult hippo or rhino and with a thick crocodile tail – is too heavy and sluggish to be an effective hunter, a new study has shown that the Anteosaur could to overtake, search for and kill your prey effectively.
Despite its name and fierce appearance, the Anteosaurus is not a dinosaur, but rather belongs to the dinocephalus ̵
Fossilized dinocephalic bones are found in many parts of the world. They stand out with large size and large weight. Dinocephalus bones are thick and dense and Anteosaurus is no exception. Anteosaur’s skull was adorned with large bosses (bumps and lumps) above the eyes and a long crest at the tip of the muzzle, which, in addition to its enlarged canine teeth, made his skull look like that of a ferocious creature. However, due to the heavy architecture of its skeleton, it was previously thought to be a rather sluggish, slow-moving animal, capable only of cleaning or planting its prey, at best.
“Some scientists even suggest that the Anteosaurus is so heavy that it could only live in water,” said Dr. Julien Benoit of the Institute for Evolutionary Research at the University of the Witwatersrand (University of Whits).
By carefully reconstructing Anteosaurus’ skull digitally using X-rays and 3D reconstructions, a team of researchers examined the internal structures of the skull and found that the specific characteristics of its brain and balance organs were developed in such a way that everything but slowly.
“Mobile predators such as cheetahs or the infamous Velociraptor have always had a highly specialized nervous system and fine-tuned sensory organs that allow them to track and hunt prey effectively,” says Benoit. “We wanted to know if the Anteosaurus had similar adaptations.”
The team found that the balance organ in Anteosaurus (its inner ear) was relatively larger than that of its closest relatives and other modern predators. This shows that Anteosaurus was able to move much faster than its prey and competitors. They also found that the part of the brain responsible for coordinating eye movements with the head was extremely large, which would be a crucial feature in ensuring the animal’s ability to track.
“In creating the most complete reconstruction of Anteosaur’s skull to date, we found that the overall Anteosaurus nervous system is optimized and specialized for fast and fast hunting, unlike what was previously thought,” says Dr. Ashley Krueger. from the Natural History Museum in Stockholm, Sweden and previously from the University of Whits.
“Although the Anteosaur lived 200 million years before the famous dinosaur Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Anteosaur was definitely not a ‘primitive’ creature and was nothing more than a powerful prehistoric killing machine,” Benoit said.
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Materials provided by University of the Witwatersrand. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.