Ancient crocodile-like reptile called pseudosuchian discovered

Earth’s history is filled with amazing creatures, some of which, like pseudosuchians, still baffle experts today.

One example of such a creature is a recently discovered new species of predatory reptile found in central Brazil, and is a remarkable addition to the stories of the Triassic period.

This latest discovery sheds light on an ancient lineage of crocodile-like reptiles, known as pseudosuchians, Parvosuchus aurelioiNow, let’s go on a journey to truly understand these “false crocodiles” and their role in our planet’s past.

Triassic stories of pseudosuchians

Before the arrival of the dinosaurs, pseudosuchians roamed the surface of the Earth for all to see. Inhabiting our planet during the Triassic Period, about 252 to 201 million years ago, they were one of the most common quadrupedal reptiles of the time.

Their existence is best represented by the creatures that were at the top of the food chain – the giant carnivorous pseudosuchians.

meanwhile, GracilisuchidsSmaller relatives of these apex predators shared this period, and their traces have been found in areas such as China and Argentina.

The hero of our story, Brazilian scientist Rodrigo Müller, has added color to our understanding of pseudosuchians. Let’s take a closer look.

Pseudosuchians Were a Fascinating Tribe

Pseudosuchians, or “false crocodiles”, belonged to a diverse group of archosaurs, siblings of modern birds and crocodiles and their extinct relatives.

They thrived, diversified and adapted, emerging in a range of sizes, shapes and lifestyles that were as diverse as the environments they called home. They can be classified into a few notable groups:

  • AetosauriaHeavily armored, plant-eating creatures known for their broad, flat bodies and short legs.
  • Ornithosuchidae“Bird crocs”, an interesting mix of bird and crocodile characteristics, and were probably active predators.
  • RauisuchidaeTrue giants of their time, massive predators with strong limbs and a fearsome bite.
  • CrocodylomorphaThe ancestors of today’s crocodiles were initially small and terrestrial but later evolved semi-aquatic abilities.

The anatomy of ancient adaptability

Pseudosuchians had a surprising range of physical features that reflected their adaptability and evolutionary success. The shape of their skulls and teeth indicate their diverse diets and lifestyles.

Predatory species had sharp, serrated teeth for tearing flesh, while herbivorous species had flattened teeth for grinding plant material.

Similarly, the structure of their limbs differed dramatically depending on their lifestyle. For example, rauisuchids had strong, pillar-like limbs that suited their land-dwelling predatory lifestyle. On the other hand, early crocodylomorphs had fine limbs, suitable for both land and water.

Another distinctive feature seen in many pseudosuchians, especially aetosaurs, was the presence of extensive body armor composed of bony plates or osteoderms. This armor not only provided protection, but probably also played a role in heat regulation.

Triassic ecosystem and pseudosuchian roles

Pseudosuchians not only survived but thrived in a variety of ecological niches. Species such as the rauisuchids reigned as the dominant terrestrial predators, while aetosaurs served as the primary herbivores of their ecosystem. Some pseudosuchians also enjoyed omnivorous or generalist diets.

Unfortunately, most pseudosuchians became extinct at the end of the Triassic period due to volcanic activity, climate change, and competition with emerging archosaurs such as the early dinosaurs.

However, the lineage of crocodylomorphs persisted and evolved into the types of crocodiles we see today.

New Brazilian discovery: Parvosuchus aurelioi

Let’s go back to Rodrigo Muller’s recent discovery. He discovered a new species of gracilisuchid from a specimen located in the Santa Maria Formation of Brazil.

This partial skeleton, approximately 237 million years old, includes a complete skull, 11 dorsal vertebrae, a portion of the pelvis, and partially preserved limbs.

The ancient crocodile-like reptile called Parvosuchus aurelioi is a pseudosuchian. Credit: Matthias Fernandes

Name Parvosuchus aurelioiThe name is a tribute to amateur paleontologist Pedro Lucas Porcella Aurélio, who found the fossil material by chance.

This small crocodile-like creature is estimated to have been less than a metre long, and had long slender jaws filled with sharp teeth that curved backwards.

This fascinating discovery is the first such species confirmed from Brazil, and draws attention to the incredible diversity among pseudosuchians during the Triassic period.

from the Triassic period to modern times

This journey through the Triassic Period and the world of pseudosuchians is a testament to Earth’s rich and diverse history.

search Parvosuchus aurelioi The discovery in Brazil is an important milestone in uncovering the vast legacy of these ancient reptiles. It reminds us of the spectacular biodiversity that once coloured the landscapes of our planet, with creatures both large and small.

The understanding gained from studying pseudosuchians provides insight into our world’s ecological past, and demonstrates the adaptability and flexibility of life.

As we continue to unravel the records of Earth’s past, each new discovery, such as Parvosuchus aurelioiThis book takes us one step closer to understanding the magnificent nature of life and its evolution over millions of years.

The full study was published in the journal Scientific Reports,


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