The above is a picture of a new species of crocodile, named Effigia okeeffeae, that walks on two feet. According National Geographic News:
Despite the reptile’s resemblance to an ostrich dinosaur, or ornithomimid, Effigia is actually some 80 million years older.
Effigia roamed North America in the Triassic period some 210 million years ago.
“This is totally unexpected and reminds us that crocodilian relatives were more diverse in the past than they are today,” said paleontologist James Clark, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Encased in a plaster jacket, the bones had remained hidden in the American Museum of Natural History for decades. Recently, though, Norell and study coauthor Sterling Nesbitt, a graduate student, reexamined the long-warehoused fossils.
The pair soon spotted the distinctive “crocodile” ankle that first alerted them to the fossil’s potential importance.
Ankle aside, Effigia had large eyes, a long tail, and a toothless beak–not unlike the ostrich dinosaurs.
Effigia also walked on two feet, unlike modern crocs.
“Today we think of crocodiles as looking basically the same,” said Nesbitt, of the American Museum of Natural History and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “But in their history they took on a wide variety of different body plans.”
“Some looked like reptilian armadillos or cats, and others looked like little dinosaurs,” Nesbitt said.
The crocodilian family may have been at its peak during the Triassic period.
“Toward the end of the Triassic period you have this crazy diversification of these crocodile relatives, including this animal,” Nesbitt said.
“It was really the heyday of the crocodile-like animals, but the only lineage to really make it out of the Triassic was the lineage that led to modern crocodiles.”
Filed under: Paleontology |