EGU Blogs


Nessie dwarfed by new Scottish crocodile

Yes, Nessie had to be in the title. Am I sorry? A little. But not enough to not use it.

Colleagues from the University of Edinburgh and myself have described the first Scottish crocodile fossil! It’s from the Isle of Skye, from a time known as the Middle Jurassic, and dates back around 160 million years ago. Based on a partial bit of a jawbone (the dentary), it’s hardly the most spectacular fossil we’ve ever found, but it tells quite a neat story.

Based on the features we could identify of the jawbone, we were able to identify the specimen as belonging to Theriosuchus. This genus has quite a complicated history, and currently 5 species are assigned to it that span some 100 million years! That’s pretty long lived for a single genus. Theriosuchus belongs to a group known as Atoposauridae, which based on our current understanding went extinct along with the non-avian dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period.

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Green tea and Velociraptors turns into beer and dwarf crocodiles

I’m in Berlin. I’ve just managed to find a chicken donner kebab, and am pausing research briefly to write this. I’m currently on leave from London, with a ridiculously hectic couple of months ahead: I’ve just been to Munich to see a dwarf crocodile specimen, Alligatorellus beaumonti (from Bavaria), which conveniently happened to coincide with Oktoberfest, and am now here to visit another specimen, Theriosuchus ibericus, from Spain. Preliminary glances at the material in Berlin makes me think the Spanish material may be a new genus altogether (whatever that actually means), and another broken up specimen of Alligatorellus might be a new species, based on what I can tell from it’s body armour (yeah, these crocs were awesome!)

Alligatorellus beaumonti, holotype specimen. Copyright: Bavarian State Collection, Munich

Alligatorellus beaumonti, holotype specimen. Copyright: Bavarian State Collection, Munich

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Crocodiles! They’re everywhere!

The Natural History Museum in London contains some of the most diverse vertebrate Palaeontological collections in the world, in terms of number of species. As part of my PhD, I have to learn detailed crocodile anatomy, mostly skeletal (osteology), to help identify and describe the particular group I’ll be researching into. The Zoology Department would normally be a great target to go and learn this, but for reasons undisclosed, they were unavailable for research visits. Fortunately, Lorna Steel, a curator of the fossil vertebrates, informed me that they had some extant croc material I could come and play with! Seeing as Imperial College is next door to the NHM, I trotted off to have a peak.

Croc 1 – Guesses as to species below! (click for larger image) Copyright: Natural History Museum