Thursday, December 16, 2010

Revealed: The tiny vegetarian crocodile with a pig nose that died out with the dinosaurs


Simosuchus was more like an armadillo than a crocodile and moved slowly through grassy habitat rather then water

Archaelogists have unearthed the skeleton of an ancient form of crocodile that had a nose like a pig and which was completely vegetarian.

Known as Simosuchus clarki, the creature lived in Madagascar towards the end of the age of dinosaurs – about 66 million years ago.

Simosuchus looked completely different to crocodile we recognise today with its blunt snout, leaf-shaped teeth, and short, tank-like body covered in a suit of bony armour.

Dr. Christopher Brochu, a leading expert on fossil crocodiles from the University of Iowa, said: ‘Simosuchus is easily the most bizarre crocodyliform ever found.’

Two feet long, pudgy, with a blunt snout and the shortest tail of any known crocodyliform, Simosuchus was not equipped to snatch unsuspecting animal prey from the water’s edge as many modern crocodiles do.

'Simosuchus lived on land, and its crouched posture and wide body probably meant it was not very agile or fast,' said Joseph Sertich, who participated in the research.

In addition, its short, under-slung jaw and weak, leaf-shaped teeth show that it probably munched on a diet of plants.

What the prehistoric crocodile looked like has been pieced together from parts of its skeleton

Simosuchus lived on the semi-arid grassland habitat of Madagasgar, pausing to nip at plants and crouching low to hide from predators like the meat-eating dinosaurs
'The completeness and preservation of the specimens demanded detailed treatment,' said Krause, a professor at Stony Brook University. 'It just seemed unconscionable to not document such fantastic fossil material of this unique animal.'

'The skull and lower jaw in particular are preserved almost completely,” said Kley, assistant professor in the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University.

‘This, combined with high-resolution CT scans of the most exquisitely preserved specimen, has allowed us to describe the structure of the head skeleton – both externally and internally – in exceptional detail, including even the pathways of the tiniest nerves and blood vessels.'

The animal's skull showed that this early crocodile was not a meat-eater but instead munched on grass

source :dailymail

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