Jurassic crocodile identified in fossil study

Jurassic crocodile identified in fossil study
Artist's impression. Credit: Julia Beier

A prehistoric crocodile that lived around 180 million years ago has been identified—almost 250 years after the discovery of its fossil remains.

A found in a Bavarian town in the 1770s has been recognized as the now-extinct species Mystriosaurus laurillardi, which lived in tropical waters during the Jurassic Period.

For the past 60 years, it was thought the animal was part of a similar species, known as Steneosaurus bollensis, which existed around the same time, researchers say.

Mysterious specimens

Palaeontologists identified the animal by analyzing fossils unearthed in the UK and Germany.

The team, which included Edinburgh scientists, also revealed that another skull, discovered in Yorkshire in the 1800s, belongs to Mystriosaurus laurillardi.

"Unravelling the complex history and anatomy of fossils like Mystriosaurus is necessary if we are to understand the diversification of during the Jurassic. Their rapid increase in biodiversity between 200 and 180 million years ago is still poorly understood," says Dr. Mark Young, School of GeoSciences.

Marine species

The —which was more than four meters in length—had a long snout and pointed teeth, and preyed on fish, the team says. It lived in warm seas alongside other animals including ammonites and large marine reptiles, called ichthyosaurs.

The discovery of fossils in present-day Germany and the UK shows that the species could easily swim between islands, much like modern saltwater crocodiles, researchers say.

The study, led by Naturkunde-Museum Bielefeld in Germany, is published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, It was supported by the Palaeontographical Society, Leverhulme Trust and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

"Mystriosaurus looked like a gharial but it had a shorter snout with its nasal opening facing forwards, whereas in nearly all other fossil and living crocodiles the nasal opening is placed on top of the snout," says Sven Sachs, Naturkunde-Museum Bielefeld.


Explore further

Jurassic crocodile sheds light on family tree

More information: Acta Palaeontologica Polonica (2019). DOI: 10.4202/app.00557.2018
Journal information: Acta Palaeontologica Polonica

Citation: Jurassic crocodile identified in fossil study (2019, September 12) retrieved 15 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-09-jurassic-crocodile-fossil.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
240 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more