November 19, 2009 (CHICAGO) --
Did crocodiles dine on dinosaurs? Probably, according to a University of Chicago paleontologist. Paul Sereno and his colleague Hans Larsson, of McGill University, unveiled fossils of five ancient crocodiles that roamed the earth with the dinosaurs. Some of the species might have even made the dinosaurs a snack.
Sereno and Larsson gave the species nicknames: BoarCroc, RatCroc, DuckCroc, DogCroc and PancakeCroc.
All of them-except PancakeCroc- were adept land animals with four legs. Unlike today's crocodiles, the prehistoric ones had an ability to stand up and run while being chased or chasing down prey.
"Crocodiles in what is now North America at this time were pretty boring compared to the Cretaceous crocs we see in South America and Africa," said Sereno.
PancakeCroc, named for its flat head and snout, waddled on short legs much like today's crocodiles.
The crocs and their nicknames (from U of C press release): BoarCroc: New species, Kaprosuchus saharicus; fossils found in Niger. Twenty-foot-long upright meat-eater with an armored snout for ramming and three sets of dagger-shaped fangs for slicing. Closest relative found in Madagascar. RatCroc: New species, Araripesuchus rattoides; fossils found in Morocco. Three-foot-long, upright plant and grub-eater. Pair of buckteeth in lower jaw used to dig for food. Closest relative in South America. PancakeCroc: New species, Laganosuchus thaumastos; fossils found in Niger and Morocco. Twenty-foot-long, squat fish-eater with a three-foot, pancake-flat head. Spike-shaped teeth on slender jaws. Likely rested motionless for hours, its jaws open and waiting for prey. Closest relative from Egypt. The scientific paper also names a close relative discovered by the team in Morocco, Laganosuchus maghrebensis. DuckCroc: New fossils of previously named species, Anatosuchus minor. Fossils found in Niger. Three-foot-long, upright fish-, frog- and grub-eater. Broad, overhanging snout and Pinocchio-like nose. Special sensory areas on the snout end allowed it to root around on the shore and in shallow water for prey. Closest relative in Madagascar. DogCroc: New fossils of named species, Araripesuchus wegeneri. Fossils found in Niger include five skeletons, all next to each other on a single block of rock. Three-foot-long, upright plant- and grub-eater with a soft, doglike nose pointing forward. Likely an agile galloper, but also a capable swimmer. Closest relative in Argentina.
Crocodiles date back about 240 million years. Fossils of the animals are found on every continent.
Sereno's findings were published in ZooKeys, a research journal. They are also being featured in