Paleontologists have discovered a new species of prehistoric crocodile


05/02/2012

In the vaults of the Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists discovered the ancient ancestor of modern crocodiles. Examination of fossil creatures found that prehistoric reptile different from their modern counterparts not only in size and the unusual structure of the head, but also habits.

Scientists have named the new species Aegisuchus witmeri. African ancestor of crocodiles that inhabit the earth today, existed on the planet in the late Cretaceous period (about 93-99 million years ago).

"A. witmeri - the oldest ancestor of crocodiles. Its fossils, as well as other similar findings suggest that the ancestors of modern reptiles were very different from each other" - said Casey Holliday, a member of the University of Missouri.

Studying the location of the blood vessels in the skull of a crocodile, Casey revealed that under the skin of the animal’s head swirled large amount of blood. Previously, these reptiles anything like this has been noted. The scientist concluded that the upper part of the head was presented outgrowth consisting of a very thick skin, which looked like a shield, like a Triceratops. That is why the authors of the work and called recently found a crocodile ancestor "schitokrok."

It is possible that this growth has served to regulate the body temperature of an ancient animal or wearing some sort of "aesthetic" sense, attracting females, for example.

When comparing the structure of various bone Holliday noticed that the new species crocodile skull was more flat, compared to other known types. Hard to believe that with a head like an ancient predator hunting dinosaurs, as noted paleontologist. This is evidenced by the relatively thin jaws of a giant crocodile. Most likely, A. witmeri more hunting for fish.

Employee Holliday, Nick Gardner from Marshall University, tried to describe the scenario of hunting the animal, "Maybe" schitokrok "just lay there, waiting for unsuspecting prey closer. Then he would grab their prey mouth and eat, without meeting any resistance."

After studying the skull and head of an ancient predator, in order to determine the total size of the reptile, paleontologists have found that the length of the head of an ancient crocodile reached about one and a half meters, and the total body length was greater than 9 meters.

Fossils of A. witmeri been discovered by scientists in Morocco in deposits that were previously continental fresh water. It turns out that the first crocodiles began to exist near the Mediterranean Sea.

More details were published in the journal PLoS ONE.


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