Partial Skelton of Ancient Croc-like Predator Species Discovered

Posted on January 20, 2015

Nundasuchus songeaensis

Nundasuchus was a 9-foot long predator croc-like species that lived before the dinosaurs. It had steak knife-teeth and bony plates on its back. A partial skeleton of the species was discovered in 2007.

Nundasuchus songeaensis was named by Sterling Nesbitt, an assistant professor of geological sciences and member of the Virginia Tech paleontology team. Nesbitt says the name is "Swahili mixed with Greek." Nunda means predator in Swahili and suchus refers to a crocodile in Greek. Songeaensis is named for the town of Songea where the creature's bones were discovered.

Nesbitt says in a statement, "The reptile itself was heavy-bodied with limbs under its body like a dinosaur, or bird, but with bony plates on its back like a crocodilian."

The fossil of Nundasuchus was found in southwestern Tanzania. The bones were in thousands of pieces and Nesbitt says over 1,000 hours were spent cleaning them and putting them together.

Nesbitt also says, "There's such a huge gap in our understanding around the time when the the common ancestor of birds and crocodilians was alive - there isn't a lot out there in the fossil record from that part of the reptile family tree. This helps us fill in some gaps in reptile family tree, but we're still studying it and figuring out the implications."

A research paper on the reptile can be found here in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology..

Image: Virginia Tech


More from Science Space & Robots