Enigmatic Triassic Hellasaur Thursday…who’s counting anway? — The Duck-billed Ichthyopus

8 May 2008

When George Shaw received the first platypus skin to make it to England in 1789, he took a pair of scissors to it to look for stitches, or so the story goes. It is impossible not to entertain some doubts as to the genuine nature of the animal,” wrote Shaw. Surgeon, and racist, Henry Knox argued that the Asian itinerary by which the specimen had traveled was, “sufficient to rouse the suspicions of the scientific naturalist, aware of the monstrous impostures which the artful Chinese had so frequently practiced on European adventurers.” Of course, the reality of this chimerical creature has long since been recognized, and, as of this week, we have the unique genome to prove it.

More recently the Archaeoraptor” scandal raised echoes of Knox’s Sinophobia, and this weeks’ hellasaur is certainly enough to raise eyebrows. Hupehsuchus nanchangensis, has that “designed by committee” look, with the limbs of a basal ichthyosaur, the dorsal armor of a placodont and the bill of a…well, duck. But the fossils indeed check-out: this is no “monstrous imposture”, just one freaky-ass (or if you rather, enigmatic-ass) hellasaur.

Hupehsuchus drawing by Zach Miller

Hupehsuchus nanchangensis by Zach Miller

And the more you look, the weirder it gets…more tomorrow!

6 Responses to “Enigmatic Triassic Hellasaur Thursday…who’s counting anway? — The Duck-billed Ichthyopus”

  1. Zach Miller Says:

    Perhaps a goose-beak would be more apt. Ducks have nice wide beaks, but Hupeh had a long, fairly narrow bill. Actually, it wasn’t terrible narrow–it didn’t get any narrower toward its terminal end, and was about the same width as the skull.


    I look forward to your discussion of the beastie!

  2. Laelaps Says:

    Very nice! I like it. I actually had never heard of this beastie before, and I’m looking forward to seeing some more on it. (Including maybe some references so I can download some papers, perhaps?)

  3. Zach Miller Says:

    Neil sent me the critter’s extensive description, Brian. I’ll email you a copy after work.

  4. Will Baird Says:

    We want more hellasaurs!

  5. Zach Miller Says:

    Dude, it was tomorrow like…five days ago!

  6. neil Says:

    The natives grow restless…

    I strongly caution readers against literal interpretations of microecos…this can only lead to schism, bloodshed and loss of faith.

    Anyway, by tomorrow, I meant tomorrow plus a week….

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