New Fossil Species of Ancient Crocodile Ancestor Found In UK

Experts said the discovery of this new predator “helps fill a gap in the fossil record” and suggests they must have originated about 15 million years further back in time.

New Fossil Species of “Thalatosuchian”

The discovery of a new fossil species of “thalatosuchian”, ancient ancestor of today’s crocodiles, in the so-called “Jurassic coast”, Dorset, located in the south of the United Kingdom, “helps fill a gap in the fossil record,” experts said. according to a study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology released today.

Among the remains of the new species, called “Turnersuchus hingleyae”, they found part of the head, the vertebral column and the extremities.

The experts stated that the discovery of this new predator “helps fill a gap in the fossil record” and suggests that “Talattosuchians, along with other crocodilians, must have originated towards the end of the Triassic period, some 15 million years later in the longer than when Turnersuchus lived,” they explained.

In addition, they detailed that “Turnersuchus is the only sufficiently complete talattosuchian of its age – dating back to the Early Jurassic, Pliensbachian period, about 185 million years ago – to which a name has been given to date,” the DPA news agency reported. .

“We should now expect to find more Talattosuchians around the same age as Turnersuchus, as well as older ones,” said co-author Eric Wilberg, Ph.D., an adjunct professor in Stony Brook University’s Department of Anatomical Sciences.

“In fact, another paper was published during the publication of our paper, describing a talattosuco skull discovered in a cave ceiling in Morocco from the Hettangian/Sinemurian (the time periods before the Pliensbachian in which Turnersuchus was found). ), which corroborates this idea”, he emphasized.

“I hope we will continue to find more ancient Talattosuchians and their relatives. Our analyzes suggest that Talattosuchians probably first appeared in the Triassic and survived the late Triassic mass extinction,” he concluded.

However, “no excavations” have yet found Talattosuchians in Triassic rocks, which means “a ghost lineage exists,” a period during which we know a group must have existed, but for which we have not yet recovered fossil evidence, the study said. agency.

Until the discovery of Turnersuchus, this ghost lineage stretched from the late Triassic to the Toarcian in the Jurassic, “but now we can reduce the ghost lineage to a few million years,” the team said.

Talattosuchians are known colloquially as “marine crocodiles” or “sea crocodiles”, despite the fact that they are not members of Crocodylia, but are more distantly related, DPA recalled.

Some Talattosuchians have adapted “very well” to life in the oceans, with short limbs modified into fins, a shark-like caudal fin, salt glands, and potentially the ability to give birth live, rather than lay. eggs, they added.

Turnersuchus “is interesting because many of these recognized features of talattosuchians had not yet fully evolved,” the experts noted.

The species fed on marine fauna and “because of its relatively long and slender snout, its appearance would have been similar to extant gharial crocodiles, found in the major river systems of the northern Indian subcontinent,” they concluded.

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