New! Sign up for our free email newsletter.
Science News
from research organizations

Jurassic crocodile discovery sheds light on reptiles' family tree

Date:
April 4, 2019
Source:
University of Edinburgh
Summary:
A 150 million-year-old fossil has been identified as a previously unseen species of ancient crocodile that developed a tail fin and paddle-like limbs for life in the sea.
Share:
FULL STORY

A newly identified species of 150 million-year-old marine crocodile has given insights into how a group of ancient animals evolved.

The ancestor of today's crocodiles belonged to a group of animals that developed a tail fin and paddle-like limbs for life in the sea, resembling dolphins more than crocodiles.

These slender animals, which fed on fast-moving prey such as squid and small fish, lived during the Jurassic era in shallow seas and lagoons in what is now Germany. Related species have previously been found in Mexico and Argentina.

An international team of scientists, including researchers from Germany and the University of Edinburgh, identified the new species from a remarkably well-preserved skeleton.

The fossil was discovered in 2014 in a quarry near the town of Bamberg in Bavaria, Germany by a team from the Naturkunde-Museum Bamberg, where it is now housed. The species, Cricosaurus bambergensis, takes its name from the town.

Researchers compared the fossil with those from other museum collections, and confirmed that it was a previously unseen species.

The skeleton has several distinguishing features in its jaws, the roof of its mouth and tail, some of which have not been seen in any other species.

Experts created digital images of the fossil in high resolution, to enable further research. They expect the fossil will aid greater understanding of a wider family of ancient animals, known as metriorhynchid, to which this species belonged.

The research, carried out with Naturkunde-Museum Bielefeld, Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen and commercial partners Palaeo3D, is published in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

Dr Mark Young, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, who took part in the study, said: "The rock formations of southern Germany continue to give us fresh insights into the age of dinosaurs. These rock layers were deposited at a time when Europe was covered by a shallow sea, with countries such as Germany and the UK being a collection of islands."

Sven Sachs, from the Naturkunde-Museum Bielefeld, who led the project, said: "The study reveals peculiar features at the palate that have not been described in any fossil crocodile so far. There are two depressions which are separated by a pronounced bar. It is not clear what these depressions were good for."


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Edinburgh. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sven Sachs, Mark Young, Pascal Abel, Heinrich Mallison. A new species of the metriorhynchid crocodylomorph Cricosaurus from the Upper Jurassic of southern Germany. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 2019; 64 DOI: 10.4202/app.00541.2018

Cite This Page:

University of Edinburgh. "Jurassic crocodile discovery sheds light on reptiles' family tree." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190404124755.htm>.
University of Edinburgh. (2019, April 4). Jurassic crocodile discovery sheds light on reptiles' family tree. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190404124755.htm
University of Edinburgh. "Jurassic crocodile discovery sheds light on reptiles' family tree." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190404124755.htm (accessed April 23, 2024).

Explore More

from ScienceDaily

RELATED STORIES