Feeds

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

'Shieldcrocs' mingled with dinosaurs

Boost IT visibility and business value

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

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
TRANSMUTATION claims US LENR company
Ten points of stuff out of a five pound bag
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
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.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
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.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?