In the UK, found the bones of the oldest “saltwater crocodile”
(ORDO NEWS) — About 190 million years ago, a two-meter pangolin, one of the oldest relatives of modern crocodiles, swam in the shallow sea off the coast of modern Britain.
In the first half of the Mesozoic era, talattosuchia, or “marine crocodiles” swam in the seas of our planet – the first crocodilomorphs that adapted to life in the open ocean.
Some talattosuchia were not inferior in size to the modern combed crocodile , reaching more than seven meters in length, but on average they were relatively small reptiles up to four meters long.
Previously, scientists only assumed that the ancestors of talattosuchia separated from the rest of the crocodilomorphs at the end of the Triassic period : there was no direct evidence in the form of fossils, and the oldest representatives of the suborder, already fully adapted to life in the sea, were found in the sediments of the Middle Jurassic period about 165 million years old.
And finally, the hypothesis has found its petrified evidence: in the UK, they unearthed a relatively complete skeleton of the most ancient talattosuchus, who lived almost 190 million years ago.
Fragments of the skull, spine and limbs of a sea lizard were found in Dorset in southern Britain. The new species has been named Turnersuchus hingleyae, after Paul Turner and Elizabeth Hingley, who discovered the fossil in 2017.
Turnersuchus was comparatively small by the standards of later talattosuchians, only about two meters from nose to tail, but for the early Jurassic this is quite an impressive size.
Despite the narrow jaws, which gave the predator a resemblance to the modern gharial , the ternersuchus, judging by the large supratemporal fenestrae, had a fairly strong bite.
Probably, this “sea crocodile” inhabited the coastal zone, hunting for fish and cephalopods, although on occasion it certainly did not let small reptile relatives pass by.
Now that such ancient fossils have been found, the gap between the hypothetical time of the appearance of the first talattosuchians and the oldest known representatives of the suborder has been almost halved.
It remains to be hoped that in the future, researchers will discover the bones of contemporaries of the turnersuchus or even its more ancient relatives in order to compile the most complete tree of evolution of these amazing “marine crocodiles”.
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