Ancient Croc Found

Researchers discover a new fossil of an ancient 20-foot-long crocodile in the same coal mine where the world’s largest snake was found.

By | September 16, 2011

This illustration shows how Acherontisuchus guajiraensis, a 60-million-year-old ancestor of crocodiles, would have looked in its natural setting. Titanoboa, the world's largest snake, is pictured in the background.FLORIDA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, ILLUSTRATION BY DANIELLE BYERLEY

A coal mine in Colombia is turning out to be a home for ancient giants. In addition to the 40-foot-long snake known as the Titanoboa, the once rivers of South America were also roamed by a 20-foot crocodile species, researchers reported in Palaeontology yesterday (September 15).

The newly discovered crocodile fossil (Acherontisuchus guajiraensis) holds many similarities to its modern relatives—a long, narrow jaw with loads of sharp teeth, leading the researchers to suggest it was a great hunter—primarily devouring lungfish and bonefish relatives, they suspect. If true, that would make the croc the first tropical New World land animal specialized to eat fish, Wired reported.

The crocodiles, especially juveniles, were also likely the prey of the giant boa. “The younger individuals were definitely not safe from Titanoboa, but the biggest of these species would have been a bit much for the 42-foot snake to handle,” co-author Alex Hastings of the Florida Museum of Natural History said in a press release.

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