If you’re talking about saber-toothed creatures, you’re generally talking about carnivores such as smilodon… because why the hell would an herbivore have gigantic fangs? In a paper published this week in the journal Science, a Brazilian team has identified an early large-ish mammal creature called Anomodont, that had both broad flat teeth for grinding plants and long, razor-like saber teeth.
The scientists have identified the new fossil as an Anomodont—a diverse suborder of creatures that weren’t mammals, but had some mammal-like traits. These weren’t ancestors of the mammals that exist today. Instead, we simply share a common ancestor. But, when it comes time to imagine with Anomodonts looked like, that relationship leads to some pretty crazy looking illustrations. Like the one above, where you get a thing that looks kind of like a lizard, but with mammal-like skin. It’s an idea that’s not totally far-fetched. Some other not-quite-mammals related to Anomodonts have been found with imprints of fur.
If this creature ate only plants, then what the hell were those pointy teeth for? This is a point where scientists can only speculate, but the going theory is that this animal’s saber teeth (which, notably, lack the serrations found on carnivorous saber teeth) might have been more about self-defense, or a way to fight rivals of the same species. Sort of like the way that bulls use their horns.