Newly discovered dinosaur had scissor-like teeth

A recently discovered dinosaur proves that millions of years after their deaths, these creatures can still surprise us. Recently discovered in France, the remains of Matheronodon provincialis, a prehistoric iguanodon cousin, show its rather unique teeth.

Two digs in Marseilles, in 2009 and 2012, allowed Belgian and French palaeontologists to uncover hundreds of fossils of dinosaurs, pterosaurs and prehistoric crocodiles. Notable among the findings, which have recently appeared in the journal Scientific Reports, was the discovery of a new species of dinosaur. This was named Matheronodon provincialis, a relative of the iguanodon. All that was found of this prehistoric herbivore was the right part of a jawbone, but its teeth immediately attracted attention. Mostly for their extreme size, but also for their unusual ridged shape.

All that experts could find from this highly unusual specimen.
All that experts could find from this highly unusual specimen was this portion of the jaw bone.

A dinosaur with sharp, blade-like teeth might not sound very radical, but there’s something quite special about Matheronodon provincialis. This dinosaur didn’t have very many teeth, but those that it did have were something else. Reaching up to 6cm long and 5cm wide, Matheronodon provincialis’ teeth functioned like ridged scissors. Having a coating of enamel on just one side of the teeth also meant that they should sharpen themselves just from the act of chewing. The unusual shape of M. provincialis’ teeth suggests that it ate plants which the majority of its contemporary herbivores couldn’t. Its approach would be to slice through tough palm leaves rather than crushing tough conifers. This may have allowed it to survive during periods when competition for food was high.

Experts believe, based on the dimensions of the jawbone found, that M. provincialis was probably about 5 metres long, though there is little beyond that which can be learned. This sharp-toothed titan would have lived about 70 million years ago in what is now Europe. It’s amazing how often we’re discovering new information about creatures that predate us by millions of years.  Very recently, a carnivore was discovered in South Africa, said to have greatly rivalled the Tyrannosaurus Rex in size and power. Who knows what wondrous creatures are still waiting for their chance to be found just beneath the Earth’s surface? What more can we learn about this incredible planet that we’ve really only just arrived on?

Ronan Daly

Ronan Daly is a staff writer for My Good Planet who specialises in Technology and Science. With a Masters Degree in English, and over a decade's experience as a teacher and writer, Ronan has brought a breezy, learned style to My Good Planet, making occasionally complex material accessible and understandable to all.

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