Monster skull: This terrifying monstrous fossil has baffled people on the internet
This spine-chilling picture of a long-dead animal has sent the internet community into a wild frenzy.
With several razor sharp fangs and spear-like tusks protruding from its immense jaws, even the most dedicated biology enthusiasts were left scratching their heads.
But what is this seemingly prehistoric creature? Is is the remains of an unknown dinosaur species or perhaps concrete evidence for the existence of real-life monsters?
One Reddit user, DeadRabbit8813, speculated “it looks like a dragon skull”.
Another person, Jp20rb, said: “If I lived in the ancient world and stumbled on to this skull, not seeing what animal it came from I would believe in dragons.
“This thing looks like it would have scales and spikes coming out of it with flesh on.”
Other Redditors outright called it “the stuff of nightmares” and said “this is what fear looks like”.
Cantstopthemeow said: “And we tell children that monsters don’t exit.”
But despite the made-for-killing fangs and monstrous tusks, many were surprised to learn the skull actually belongs to a very well known species of animal in Africa. And the answer might surprise you.
Monster skull: The fossilised remains were found on the continent of Africa
Monster skull: Online Redditors likened the fossil to mythical dragon bones
The skull does in fact belong to a dead hippopotamus – the very same animal which spends its days lounging on the banks of rivers and taking leisurely swims.
And we tell children that monsters don’t exit
The massive animal, native to sub-Saharan Africa, is the third largest land mammal to roam the Earth after elephants and rhinos.
Large adults are known to average 1,500kg and 1,300kg for males and females respectively.
And despite their fatty, docile looks, the hippo is capable of charging at you at bursts of 19mph.
Fast, huge and very much lethal, the hippos rules the waterways in Africa, challenged only by crocodiles.
Statistically about 500 people are killed every year in unexpected hippo attacks, making the chubby animal one of the deadliest land creatures on the sun-scorched continent.
But hippos are largely herbivores and despite their aggressive nature, still prefer to munch on riverside vegetation. So why the grotesque array of chompers?
The answer could lie in the natural evolution processes that swept though Africa some eight million years ago, as new types of grass covered the land.
Fossils of ancient hippo teeth, suggest the animal evolved over a relatively quick period of just 1.5 million years, to adapt to the changing environment.
Jean-Renaud Boisserie, a palaeontologist at France’s National Center of Scientific Research, who studied an ancient hippo fossil site in Ethiopia, said hippo’s teeth were a clear sign of the changing environment.
The expert said: “Thanks to this site, we can document how this sudden burst of hippos occurred in the fossil record.
“It’s clear to me this expansion of hippos is really related to this change in vegetation.”
In fact, the massive tusks on the side of the skull serve a similar function to that of a boar’s – they are used for burrowing and goring their enemies.
Monster skull: The skull actually belongs to a dead hippopotamus
Monster skull: Hippos are herbivores but have massive tusk for burrowing and goring enemies
However Redditors faced with the hippo revelation were still full of disbelief about the shock fossil.
User Skrypz said: “How are hippo’s even real man. They’re like modern day dinosaurs but they’ve got the silliest name.”
Another person, N8UrBoY added: “This is why they are one of the deadliest animals in Africa.
“Giant skull and teeth and proportionally teeny brain. This recipe almost always makes for a dangerous animal.”