The Anteosaurus was previously considered a heavy, slow and clumsy animal. However, a study published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica showed that he was in fact a ferocious hunter.
Massive teeth, a giant skull and a powerful jaw hinted at the predatory nature of the anteosaurus. However, paleontologists assumed that the 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.
Yet new research has shown that 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, the anteosaurus is not a dinosaur, but rather belongs to the dinocephalus. They are mammalian-like reptiles, 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 many places in 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.
After carefully digitally reconstructing the skull of the antheosaur using X-ray images and 3D modeling, the research team examined the internal structures of the skull and found that the specific characteristics of its brain and organs of balance were specially designed.
Agile predators such as cheetahs or velociraptors have always had highly specialized nervous systems and finely tuned senses that enable them to effectively track their prey. Scientists wanted to find out if the Antiosaurus possessed similar characteristics.
It turned out that the organ of balance in the anteosaurus (its inner 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-head movements was exceptionally large. This is an important trait to ensure the ability of the animal to track its prey.
“In creating the most complete reconstruction of the Antiosaurus skull to date, we found that the overall nervous system of the Antiosaurus was optimized and specialized for quick and fast hunting, as opposed to what was previously thought,” explains female Dr. Ashley Krueger of the Museum of History. in Stockholm, Sweden.
“Although the Antiosaurus lived 200 million years before the famous dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex, it was definitely not a ‘primitive’ creature. Rather, it looks more like a mighty prehistoric killing machine, ”concludes Benoit.