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.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Sep 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...

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