Thursday, November 10, 2005

Crocodiles and Godzilla!

The above is a picture of a new fossil crocodile discovered in South America. Christened Dakosaurus andiniensis, the crocodile lived about 135 mya.

Here's another pic.


"This species was very unusual, because other marine crocodiles that were around at the same time had very delicate features – long, skinny snouts and needle-like teeth for catching small fish and mollusks," said Ohio State University researcher Diego Pol, who determined the crocodile lineage. "But this croc was just the opposite. It had a short snout, and large teeth with serrated edges. It was definitely a predator of large sea creatures."

It has been nicknamed "Godzilla". It sheds some interesting light on crocodile evolution:

"This [animal] forms a very distinct lineage that appears early on in the evolutionary history of crocodiles—invading the sea and showing outstanding adaptation to the marine environment," Pol said.

Unlike today's crocodiles, Dakosaurus andiensis lived entirely in the water. It measured 13 feet (4 meters) from nose to tail. Instead of legs, Dakosaurus had four paddle-like limbs, used mostly for stability. A fish-like tail propelled the beast through the water.

What made it especially unusual was its snout and teeth.
The animal's unusual features suggest that it had completely different feeding habits from its relatives. While other marine crocs fed on small fish, Dakosaurus hunted for marine reptiles and other large sea creatures, using its jagged teeth to bite and cut its prey.

"The most perplexing thing about the animal is that its head shape does not appear to be well suited to a fast swimming crocodilian, because rather than being streamlined, it is somewhat high and flattened from side to side," said Clark, who was not involved with the research.

"Presumably it moved its head mainly up and down rather than sweeping it from side to side, like fish-eating crocodilians."

New Scientist also has a story on it.

Here is another pic:

Added Later: Welcome Pharyngulans! I have added some more stuff below. Also, for your viewing pleasure (and to satisfy those unhealthy cravings for squid pictures here is a link to the video).

And yet more:

A closer view of one of the pics above:

The relationship between Dakosaurus andiniensis and other crocodylians:

The original press release can be found here