Palaeontologists Discovered a ‘Primitive Iguanodon’ With Scissor-like Teeth

Artist's impression of Matheronodon provincialis, a new species of dinosaur with scissor-like teeth (image: Lukas Panzarin)
26/10/2017
Palaeontologists Discovered a ‘Primitive Iguanodon’ With Scissor-like Teeth
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Reinout Verbeke

A team of Belgian and French palaeontologists has described a new dinosaur species that had scissor-like teeth. The fossil remains of Matheronodon provincialis – a primitive cousin of Iguanodon – were discovered in the South of France, during a ‘paleotrip’ of the Museum of Natural Sciences.

Velaux-La Bastide Neuve, north west of Marseille, is a site with sediments from the Late Cretaceous that was only discovered in 1992. Our Museum organised two ‘paleotrips’ there – in 2009 and in 2012 – resulting in hundreds of fossils: dinosaurs, pterosaurs (flying reptiles), crocodiles and turtles.

Notably, palaeontologists and volunteers found a jawbone and teeth from what now appears to be a new dinosaur species. In a study in the journal Scientific Reports the palaeontologists – some of them from our Institute – named it Matheronodon provincialis, after Philippe Matheron who in 1869 was the first to describe remains of Rhabdodontidae. This is a group of herbivore dinosaurs that also includes this new species. ‘M. provincialis was a primitive relative of Iguanodon’, says palaeontologist Pascal Godefroit of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

Cutting Palm Leaves

The new species lived around 70 million years ago and grew up to 5 metres long. It had an alimentary regime that was very specialized. It had few, but extremely enlarged teeth, up to 6 cm long and 5 cm wide. ‘They operated like self-sharpening serrated scissors’, says co-author Koen Stein of Free University of Brussels (VUB). ‘Its teeth have ridged surfaces but are only covered with a thick enamel layer on one side. Because the enamel is more resistant to wear than the exposed dentine, chewing actually keeps the teeth sharp.’

‘The denture of this group had evolved in a different direction than that of their contemporaries, the hadrosaurs or duck-billed dinosaurs’, Godefroit concludes. ‘Hadrosaurs had sophisticated dental ‘batteries’ formed by little teeth with which they could crush conifers. Matheronodon and the other Rhabdodontidae probably ate leaves of palm trees, which were abundant in Europe at that time. They had to cut rather than crush the fibre-rich leaves, before they could swallow them.’

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