Odd 'Scarface' Creature Roamed Earth 255 Million Years Ago

The prehistoric carnivore may have had venom-delivering chompers.
<span>An illustration of the only other therocephalian thought to be venomous, Euchambersia (on left), with its prey, a dicyn
An illustration of the only other therocephalian thought to be venomous, Euchambersia (on left), with its prey, a dicynodont (on right). 


 Say hello to "Scarface." The newly discovered species of pre-mammal roamed the Earth about 255 million years ago -- and was way more intimidating than Al Pacino.

The species, whose name, Ichibengops munyamadziensis, roughly translates to "Scarface of the Munyamadzi River," was recently identified on the basis of two partial skulls that were unearthed in Zambia in 2009.

Why Scarface?

"The groove on the face of Ichibengops is one of its most distinctive features, so it makes sense to have the name refer to that," Dr. Kenneth Angielczyk, associate curator of paleomammalogy at the Field Museum in Chicago and co-author of a paper describing the new species, told The Huffington Post in an email.

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<span>Photograph and line drawing the skull of Ichibengops munyamadziensis.</span>
Photograph and line drawing the skull of Ichibengops munyamadziensis.

Ichibengops was about the size of a dachshund and had furrows above its teeth that might have been used to deliver venom. Yikes. 

Ichibengops belonged to an extinct group of reptiles called therocephalians, or "beast-heads." Since these animals were closely related to the ancestors of modern-day mammals, the possibility that Ichibengops might have been venomous spotlights the rare capability of mammals and their extinct relatives to produce venom.

The duck-billed platypus and certain shrew species are the only living mammals known to have the capability.

"There is only one other therocephalian that seems to show indications of being venomous," which would be the extinct therocephalian EuchambersiaDr. Christian Sidor, professor of biology at the University of Washington in Seattle and co-author of the paper, said in a written statement. "However, it’s very difficult to assess function in fossils, so we can never be 100 percent certain." 

The paper was published online in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on July 20, 2015. 

Scarface wasn't the only monstrous species in prehistory. Check out the "Talk Nerdy To Me" episode below for five prehistoric beasts that may surprise you.