Ancient Crocodilian Named After Balrog From Lord of the Rings

Posted on May 27, 2014

Anthracosuchus balrogus vs Titanoboa

An ancient crocodilian has been named after the fictional Balrog creature in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series. The ancient 16-foot, 900-pound blunt-snouted dyrosaurid was given the name, Anthracosuchus balrogus, in a new study from The University of Florida. The huge crocodilian was featured in a 2012 Smithsonian Channel documentary about Titanoboa, a massive 58-foot python that also lived around 60 million years ago.

Anthracosuchus balrogus was unearthed from the same layer of rock as Titanoboa in the Cerrejon coal mine of northern Colombia. Smithsonian has the full Titanoboa documentary available here on YouTube.

Alex Hastings, a postdoctoral researcher at Martin Luther Universitat Halle-Wittenberg and former graduate student at the Florida Museum of Natural History and UF's department of geological sciences, says in a statement, "It quickly became clear that the four fossil specimens were unlike any dyrosaur species ever found. Everyone thinks that crocodiles are living fossils that have remained virtually unchanged for the last 250 million years. But what we're finding in the fossil record tells a very different story."

Jonathan Bloch, co-author and Florida Museum associate curator of vertebrate paleontology, says crocodyliforms that lived in the Cerrejon ecosystem during the Paleocene, when temperatures were higher than today, grew to enormous sizes. He says A. balrogus lived in close proximity to Titanoboa.

Bloch says, "Every once in a while, there was likely an encounter between Anthracosuchus and Titanoboa. Titanoboa was the largest predator around and would have tried to eat anything it could get its mouth on."

A giant turtle, Carbonemys cofrinii, also lived during the time of Titanoboa and A. balrogus.

A research paper on A. balrogus is published here in Historical Biology.

Image: courtesy of the Smithsonian Channel