Feeds

Boffins find prehistoric croc species with 'mate-attracting' skin helmet

'Shieldcrocs' mingled with dinosaurs

A new approach to endpoint data protection

Bone-bothering US boffins have identified a new species of prehistoric crocodile, nicknamed "Shieldcroc" because of a flat ornamental skin shield on its ginormous head.

Artist's impression of prehistoric Shieldcroc

Rather cartoony artist's rendition of Shieldcroc. Credit: Henry P. Tsai, University of Missouri

The hard-headed Aegisuchus witmeri is one of modern-day crocs' earliest ancestors found in Africa, the researchers claim.

"Along with other discoveries, we are finding that crocodile ancestors are far more diverse than scientists previously realised," researcher and anatomical boffin Casey Holliday said.

The scientists reckon Shieldcrocs were wandering the Earth around 95 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs were also still about. The fossilised skull specimen Holliday identified was discovered in Morocco and had been in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto for a few years already.

By looking at the blood-vessel scarring on the skull, the boffins figured out that the croc had a circular mound of skin on its head, which has never been seen before in crocodiles. This "shield" was probably used to attract mates and intimidate enemies, and could also have had a biological function as a thermo-regulator to stop the croc becoming too hot-headed.

Analysing the skull also led the researchers to guess that the size of the prehistoric beast was somewhere in the region of 30 feet long, five feet of which was just its head.

However, despite how ferocious the ancient reptile sounds, Shieldcroc was probably relatively peaceable, since it had a flatter skull and its jaws were the thin kind used to eat fish, rather than strong meat-killing-and-eating jaws.

“We believe Shieldcroc may have used its long face as a fish trap,” said co-researcher Nick Gardner. “It is possible that it lay in wait until an unsuspecting fish swam in front of it. Then, if it was close enough, Shieldcroc simply opened its mouth and ate the fish without a struggle, eliminating the need for strong jaws.”

The researchers' study was published in the journal PLoS One

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?