Feeds

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

'Shieldcrocs' mingled with dinosaurs

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.