December 17, 2008—It's not a jaw-dropping find ... but it is a jaw-raising one.
Recently found fossils of the extinct amphibian Gerrothorax pulcherrimus show that the creature lifted its head to eat, rather than lowering its bottom jaw as other vertebrates do. (The fossil, top, shows a view of the creature's skull as if from below looking up.)
The highly unusual action is not unlike that of a toilet seat.
"The animals could throw their heads upward and backward, creating a huge mouth gape with only the slightest lowering of the lower jaw—perfect for a bottom-dwelling ambush predator," Farish Jenkins, of Harvard University, said in a statement.
His team's research was published in the December 2008 issue of Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The bony-armored Gerrothorax lived 210 million years ago, dwelling in warm lakes and catching fish in its gaping, fanged maw. About three feet (one meter) long, it had a flattened body and short, stubby limbs.
"It's the ugliest animal in the world," Jenkins told Reuters.