The origin of one of the first groups of marine reptiles, the Placodonts, is now becoming clear, thanks to the new discovery of a fossil skull in the Netherlands. The 246-million-year-old skull, discovered in the region that was once the Tethys Ocean, shows that these highly specialized marine reptiles, one of the earliest saurians, very likely originated in Europe.
The placodonts lived for about 40 million years or so in the flat coastal regions of the Tethys Ocean, from around 250 million years ago to 210 million years ago. Possessing their “trademark” crushing teeth, they fed primarily on shellfish and crustaceans, but were likely opportunistic predators as well. The distinctive features of these teeth really make them stand out in the fossil record; “the upper jaw had two rows of flattened teeth – one on the palate and one on the jawbone – while the lower jaw only had one set of teeth ideal for crushing shellfish and crustaceans.”