National Geographic : 2012 Jul
ART: MAURICIO ANTÓN. SOURCE: JUAN CARLOS CISNEROS Sabertooth Vegetarian My, what big teeth it had---the better to eat plants with. That's what Juan Carlos Cisneros of Brazil's Federal University of Piauí con- cluded last year after studying the partial skull and worn dentition of a fossil species "so bizarre it was like finding a unicorn." Called Tiarajudens eccentricus, this therapsid---an extinct reptilian ancestor of mammals---efficiently chewed leaves and stems with interlocking horselike incisors and cowlike molars. Saber canines, like those of a modern musk deer, may have warded off predators and competitors. Jörg Fröbisch of Berlin's Natural History Museum says the mishmash mouth offers evolutionary insights into the late Paleozoic, when herbivores became ascendant. Cisneros is now analyzing the rest of the remains, to get more than a mouthful. ---Jeremy Berlin Discovered fossil Scientific interpretation SKYCAST Overhead this month in parts of the world July 28-29 Delta Aquarid meteor shower NOW is short-snouted, boar-size creature lived roughly 265 million years ago in what is now Brazil.