ATHENS, Ohio (August 4, 2010)—Fossils of an ancient crocodile with mammal-like teeth have been discovered in the Rukwa Rift Basin of Tanzania, scientists report in this week’s issue of the journal Nature. The unusual creature is changing the picture of animal life at 100 million years ago in what is now sub-Saharan Africa.“If you only looked at the teeth, you wouldn’t think this was a crocodile. You would wonder what kind of strange mammal or mammal-like reptile it is,” said study lead author Patrick O’Connor, associate professor of anatomy in the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine.The scientists describe the new species of notosuchian crocodyliform as a small animal—“its head would fit in the palm of your hand,” O’Connor said—that wasn’t as heavily armored as other crocodiles, except along the tail. Other aspects of its anatomy suggest it was a land-dwelling creature that likely feasted on insects and other small animals to survive.
Based on other fossils discovered as part of the Rukwa Rift Basin Project, Pakasuchus lived alongside large, plant-eating sauropod and predatory theropod dinosaurs, other types of crocodiles, turtles and various kinds of fishes. Illustration credit: Mark Witton, University of Portsmouth.
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