Anteosaurus was considered slow and clumsy, but turned out to be a ferocious hunter

Massive teeth, a giant skull and a powerful jaw hinted at the predatory nature of the anteosaurus. but

paleontologists assumed thatthe mammalian reptile was too heavy and slow to hunt effectively. It grew to the size of an adult hippopotamus or rhinoceros, in addition, it had a thick tail, like a crocodile.

And yet, a new study has shown that an anteosaurus could run, track, and effectively kill its prey in Africa 265-260 million years ago, during the period known as the Middle Permian.

Despite its name and harsh appearance,anteosaurus is not a dinosaur, but rather belongs to the dinocephalus. They are reptiles, like mammals, antecedents to dinosaurs. Like dinosaurs, they were the dominant species on Earth in the past and became extinct about 30 million years before the first dinosaur appeared.

Fossilized dinocephalic bones are found in manyplaces of the world. They are large and heavy. Dinocephalic bones are thick and dense, and the anteosaurus is no exception. However, due to the heavy architecture of its skeleton, it was previously assumed that it was a rather sluggish animal, capable at best only of collecting prey or setting up an ambush. Some scientists even suggested that Antiosaurus was so heavy that it could only live in water.

Carefully reconstructing the skull of the anteosaurus indigitally using X-ray imaging and 3D modeling, a team of researchers examined the internal structures of the skull and found that the specific characteristics of its brain and organs of balance were developed in a special way.

Transparent skulls of Anteosaurus (left) and Moschognathus (right), showing differences in their brain cavities (green) and inner ear (purple). Credit: Wits University

Agile predators such as cheetahs orVelociraptors, have always had a highly specialized nervous system and finely tuned senses that allow them to effectively track their prey. Scientists wanted to find out if the Antiosaurus possessed similar characteristics.

Antiosaurus skull compared to modern humans. Credit: Wits University

It turned out that the organ of balance in the anteosaurus (itsinner ear) is much larger than that of its closest relatives and other modern predators. This indicates that he was able to move much faster than his victim and competitors. The scientists also found that the part of the brain responsible for coordinating eye and head movements was exceptionally large. This is an important trait to ensure the ability of the animal to track its prey.

“Creating the most complete reconstruction of the skullantiosaurus to date, we found that the overall nervous system of antiosaurus was optimized and specialized for fast and quick hunting, unlike what was previously thought, ”explains female Dr. Ashley Kruger from the Historical Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.

“Although Antiosaurus lived 200 million years beforethe famous dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex, it was definitely not a “primitive” creature. Rather, it looks more like a mighty prehistoric killing machine, ”concludes Benoit.

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