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Press Release 10-134
These Crocs Were Made for Chewing?

Newly discovered, ancient crocodile was mammal-like, from its grinding molars to its skinny legs

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See what makes Pakasuchus kapilimai so special in this video feature.

Credit: Amanda Castroverde and Mackenzie Reed, National Science Foundation

 

Paleontologist Patrick O'Connor of Ohio University describes a newly discovered ancient crocodilian and its revealing place in the fossil record in an NSF webcast from Monday, Aug. 2, 2010.

Credit: National Science Foundation

 

Illustration of the ancient crocodile Pakasuchus kapilimai with a housecat for scale.

The ancient crocodile Pakasuchus kapilimai once roamed Tanzania in the Middle Cretaceous. No larger than a housecat, the animal had a number of features unusual for crocodylians, including mammal-like teeth.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation


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Left-lateral view of the skull of Pakasuchus kapilimai within original red sandstone matrix.

Left-lateral view of the skull of Pakasuchus kapilimai within its original red sandstone matrix.

Credit: Patrick M. O'Connor, Ohio University


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Using a medical scanning technology called X-ray computed tomography, the researchers were able to create detailed digital images of the Pakasuchus teeth accurate to 45 micrometers (millionths of a meter). Because the images were digital, they were ideal for animation, enabling the researchers to observe how the teeth fit with one another and estimate how the jaw may have moved.

Credit: Patrick M. O'Connor, Ohio University

 

Photo of a Nile crocodile in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda.

A Nile crocodile smiles for the camera in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda.

Credit: Nancy J. Stevens, Ohio University


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Photo of one of the research team's field vehicles on site in the Rukwa Rift Basin.

This panorama shows one of the research team's field vehicles on site in the Rukwa Rift Basin in Tanzania.

Credit: Patrick M. O'Connor, Ohio University


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Photo of Patrick O'Connor and Sifa Ngasala excavating a dinosaur limb bone out of a cliff face.

Patrick O'Connor and Sifa Ngasala excavate a dinosaur limb bone out of a cliff face on the Mtuka River.

Credit: Eric Roberts, James Cook University


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Photo of Patrick O'Connor examining exposed Pakasuchus bone fragments.

Patrick O'Connor examines the portion of exposed bone fragments that would ultimately yield the holotype specimen of Pakasuchus kapilimai. Coauthor and project student geologist Zubair Jinnah found the specimen while prospecting.

Credit: J.P. Cavigelli, Tate Museum, Wyoming


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Photo of Saidi Kapilima, namesake for Pakasuchus kapilimai, in foreground and Sifa Ngasla.

Saidi Kapilima (foreground, and for whom Pakasuchus kapilimai is named) and graduate student Sifa Ngasla (background) take a short break while hand-quarrying for fossils.

Credit: Patrick M. O'Connor, Ohio University


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