Name Meaning: Submerged lizard

Location Discovered: Probably made in China

Geologic Era: Early Cretaceous

Estimated Range: China

Size: Most real, adult specimens up to .8 meters in length

Extinction: 122 million years ago

As implied above, this specimen is a fake. It’s not even a very good fake, as a close inspection reveals carve lines in the eye socket. The painted bones are more or less featureless, and the sculpting job around them is not very well done. If you really want one of these things, they are relatively easy to obtain. Simply search “Sinohydosaurus for sale” and you will find dozens of these things. You can probably expect to spend between twenty and forty dollars. Interestingly, they all look roughly the same, even down to being in the same position.

So bad it’s almost good

The real animal these fakes are based on is called Hyphalosaurus. They are a relatively common find in the Jehol beds of China. Just because they are common does not mean they are legal for export (China has banned the export of fossils and other cultural artifacts for nearly a decade). The Jehol beds were once a series of lakes (similar in some respects to the lakes that created the Green River formation), and these little reptiles would have been as common as newts or salamanders are today.

A real specimen

Aside from being copied as often as bootleg high school exam, Hyphalosaurus has the distinction of being the first animal found that displayed polycephaly, or having more than one head. Animals like that typically do not survive long in the wild, though they can survive with care in captivity. These were also the first Mesozoic freshwater reptiles to demonstrate viviparity, or live births.

Image Credits:

Real Specimen: By User:Captmondo – Own work (photo), Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4355481

Life Restoration: By Matt Martyniuk – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10228013