A crocodile that coexisted with dinosaurs is discovered by scientists

It's skull was long-thought to belong to a dinosaur.
Nergis Firtina
A prehistoric crocodile
A prehistoric crocodile

ZU_09/iStock 

University of São Paulo researchers have discovered a new crocodile species that lived alongside dinosaurs. These giant crocodiles lived between 72 and 66 million years ago in modern-day Brazil.

Called "Titanochampsa iorii," the crocodile was between 10-20 feet long (3-6 meters), and it had a very sturdy bite, according to the statement of researchers. Their study was published in Historical Biology.

As reported by the Independent, the fossil, which is primarily made up of a partially intact skull roof and most of the reptile's right side, was discovered in 1987 in the Monte Alto district of the Brazilian state of So Paulo. However, due to the fragmentary structure of the crocodile, it was long-thought of as a dinosaur skull.

Thanks to later studies, the skull was acknowledged as a "fragmentary crocodyliform skull."

The Jurrasic crocodile most likely belongs to the Neosuchia group, which also contains all living crocodilians today and their closest fossil relatives.

A crocodile that coexisted with dinosaurs is discovered by scientists
Adamantinasuchus navae, a crocodylomorph from the Late Cretaceous of Brazil

“Both the large size of Titanochampsa iorii and its inferred strong bite are compatible with an amphibian lifestyle, including ambushing behavior, as seen in most crocodiles nowadays and matching its possible affinity to Eusuchia,” scientists wrote in the study.

“There are obvious signals of abrasion on the roof surface, but the ornamentation can still be observed, mainly on the squamosal, at the lateral corner of the skull,” they also mentioned in the study.

Spaced pits and faint grooves

In addition to all the findings made by researchers, it was said in the research paper that the newly defined crocodile species had spaced pits and faint grooves in its skull.

“Finally, the large size estimated for the specimen, ranging from 2.98 to 5.88 meters, coupled with its possible neosuchian affinity, suggests a possible semiaquatic behavior,” researchers wrote in the study.

“Titanochampsa iorii contributes to a better understanding of the evolutionary aspects of crocodiles and why Neosuchia ((all modern extant crocodilians and their closest fossil relatives) was successful, while the vast majority of crocodyliforms became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period,” paleontologist and study co-author Thiago Fachini.

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Study abstract:

Most crocodyliforms of the Bauru Group were found in rocks of the Adamantina Formation, whereas the younger Marília Formation is almost devoid of such fossils. Here, we provide a detailed comparative description of MPMA 02–0005/87, a large skull roof found in Marília Formation deposits of the Monte Alto area, assigning it to a new crocodyliform. Despite its fragmentary nature and puzzling suit of characters, the new taxon possesses enough characters to reject its placement within Notosuchia, which is so far the only crocodyliform clade known from the Bauru Group. We tested its phylogenetic position with two data matrices, both of which recovered the new taxon within Neosuchia and Eusuchia. Although the material does not preserve any eusuchian synapomorphy, a neosuchian affinity is supported by: anterior extension of the metal chamber covered by the squamosal; constricted flange of the posterior process of the postorbital; poorly developed a posterolateral process of squamosal. Finally, the large size estimated for the specimen, ranging from 2.98 to 5.88 meters, coupled with its possible neosuchian affinity, suggests a possible semiaquatic behaviour, an ecology rarely explored by the predominantly terrestrial crocodyliforms of the Bauru Group.