As big as a hippo, but speedy like a cheetah: Meet the intimidating Anteosaurus
Giant reptile roamed what is now the African continent before the dawn of the dinosaurs
Researchers studying an ancient predator made a surprising discovery that suggests the bulky reptile would have been fast and speedy, comparable to a modern-day mountain lion.
Anteosaurus roamed the African continent around 260 million years ago, in the time before dinosaurs. Due to its size, researchers had assumed that despite their predatory nature, they would have been slow and cumbersome animals.
But while using modern imaging technology to look at the details of their skulls, paleontologist Julien Benoit noticed that the inner ear and frontal lobe area of the Anteosaurus looked quite similar to that of fast-moving predators like the modern cheetah, or dinosaurs like the velociraptor.
"The inner ear is not only the organ of hearing, it's also the organ of balance. So locomotion has a direct effect on the anatomy of the inner ear," he told Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald.
This means that the Anteosaurus would have "a good sense of balance, and also a very good coordination between the motions of the eyes, the motions of the head and the motions of the body, which is something that you would find in species that are good at tracking their prey," said Benoit.
Benoit is based at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He and his team took what they'd learned and used a common measure in biology to calculate the animal's "agility score," and found that the Anteosaurus' score was comparable to a mountain lion.
"Now, was it really as agile as a mountain lion? Maybe, maybe not. But it was definitely more agile than the other things that were living at the same time," he said.
You can listen to the full interview at the link above.
Produced and written by Amanda Buckiewicz