Researchers discovered the fossil of a new species of crocodilian reptile and named it Turnersuchus hingleyae. This ancestor of modern crocodiles was found on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, UK. With most of its limbs intact, the specimen is estimated to have lived 185 million years ago and is therefore the only record of the animal during the Pliensbachian, Jurassic period.
The evaluation of the animal was published in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology and researchers say the raptor fossil helps fill a gap in the fossil record. According to them, the discovery suggests that the species must have originated around the end of the Triassic period, about 15 million years earlier than previously thought.
“Now we have to wait to find more [répteis da ordem] Thalattosuchia the same age as Turnersuchus [hingleyae] , as well as the older ones,” notes study co-author Eric Wilberg in a press release. “At the time of publication of our article, another text was published describing a Thalatosuchia skull discovered on the roof of a Hettangian/Sinemurian (pre-Pliensbachian) cave in Morocco, which confirms this idea.”
Despite the new hypothesis pointing to the appearance of the species in the Triassic, no excavations have found it Thalattosuchia in rocks of the period, which means that there is a “gentleman’s ghost”. This concept refers to a period of time when scientists estimate that a group must have existed, but no fossils have yet been recovered to prove it.
Until its discovery Turnersuchus, this span extended from the end of the Triassic (201 million years ago) to the Toarcian (from 182.7 million to 174.1 million years ago), in the Jurassic. “But now we can reduce it to a few million years,” says the team of experts.
Although they are colloquially called “sea crocodiles” or “sea crocodiles”, Thalattosuchia they are the most distant relatives of these animals. The team of scientists explains that the animals are not of the same order: crocodiles and alligators are crocodiles.
During evolution, the Thalattosuchia adapted very well to life in the oceans. The animals had short limbs modified into flippers, a shark-like tail fin, salt glands, and probably the ability to give birth instead of laying eggs.
THE Turnersuchusin turn, it had a relatively long and slender snout, similar to living gharial crocodiles, and many of the characteristics Thalattosuchia recognized had not yet fully evolved into it. “However, unlike crocodiles, the predator lived exclusively in coastal marine habitats and their skulls – although superficially similar – were built quite differently,” points out Pedro Godoy, a Brazilian co-author of the study and a researcher at the University of São Paulo . .