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135-million-year-old crocodile found in Patagonia/Argentina

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I found this cool article on livescience.com about a new species of ancient crocodile:



In the era when dinosaurs ruled the Jurassic earth, a 13-foot oceanic crocodile with a short snout and a mouthful of deadly teeth hunted large creatures in the sea, scientists reported Thursday.


Nicknamed "Godzilla" by its discoverers, the new find was much different from other marine crocodiles, which had long snouts with many small teeth.


The discovery of the creature, given the scientific name Dakosaurus andiniensis, was reported Thursday in ScienceExpress, the online edition of the journal Science.


"This animal was one of the latest members of its family and certainly the most bizarre of all marine crocs," said Diego Pol of Ohio State University, one of the authors of the report.


Lead author Zulma Gasparini of Argentina's National University of La Plata said the "animal's anatomy is really a contrast with that of the other sea crocs that developed during the Jurassic," about 135 million years ago.


The long narrow snout and small teeth of most crocs indicate feeding on small prey, Pol said, while Dakosaurus' large serrated teeth indicate a carnivore that would have hunted large prey.


"This was a top predator that probably was 13 feet long and swam around using its jagged teeth to bite and cut its prey, like dinosaurs and other predatory reptiles did," Pol said.


Instead of legs, Dakosaurus had four paddle-like limbs and a vertically oriented, fishlike tail. Dakosaurus would have regularly surfaced to gasp oxygen and then could dive into the ocean.


"We are calling him the 'chico malo' — 'bad boy'" of the ocean, said Gasparini.


While Dakosaurus had been known from a few bone fragments previously, the new detail comes from a complete skull found in Argentina in 1996 and studied by Pol, Gasparini and colleagues. The area where it was found had been a deep tropical bay during the Jurassic period.


The world's relatively shallow seas between 230 million and 65 million years ago contained several large animals, such as the plesiosaur with a 20-foot neck and the giant ichthyosaurs that could be 75-feet long.


The research was funded by Argentina's National Council of Scientific and Technical Research and the National Geographic Society. The discovery will also be featured in the December issue of National Geographic Magazine.




If u find a cool article on fossils please post it here.

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Crocodiles are easily recognized by their long, toothsome snouts. But fossil hunters in Patagonia have found one that has a short, blunt nose and relatively few teeth. Experts say that its odd shape probably means it had a different diet to the fishy one favoured by other crocs, past and present.


A surprisingly short skull and two stumpy lower jaws were uncovered in Patagonia by Zulma Gasparini, a palaeontologist at Argentina's Museo de La Plata, and her colleagues. Features of the skull revealed that the new fossils were of Dakosaurus andiniensis, a marine crocodile known from only a few fragments found in Argentina. They show that D. andiniensis, which menaced the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean some 160 million years ago, had a bullet-shaped head that has surprised experts.


"Other vertebrate palaeontologists have been asking us whether this really is a crocodile," says Diego Pol, at Ohio State University, one of the two co-authors of the paper published online by Science.


Other vertebrate paleontologists have been asking us 'is this really a crocodile?'


Catch me if you can


Although some extinct terrestrial crocodiles were known to have short heads, until now all known marine crocodiles had long snouts. The skull also has a small number of large, serrated teeth, rather than the usual quota of many small, pointed ones.


Palaeontologists think that, like modern crocodiles, extinct marine forms swept their long, shallow jaws sideways to grab their slippery prey of fish or squid. D. andiniensis's stumpy head was probably not hydrodynamic enough to pull this off successfully.


"The big question is: what did they eat?," says Eric Buffetaut, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris. He says D. andiniensis's large serrated teeth are better suited to cutting chunks off bigger prey than to grabbing whole fish. "It suggests they may have fed on other marine reptiles or large fish," he says, "but the only way to be sure is to find a fossil complete with stomach contents."

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