Tiny Ancient Crocodile Relative Had Mammal-Like Teeth

Posted on October 13, 2016

Lavocatchampsa sigogneaurussellae skull and teeth

Scientists have discovered the fossil of a previously unknown ancient crocodile relative in fossil beds in the Kem Kem area in Morocco. The crocodile lived about 100 million years ago. Researchers first thought the small 2 foot crocodile species was a mammal because of its teeth. They later determined it belongs in the crocodile evolutionary line.

The creature had mammal-like multi-cuspid teeth that included cusps and basins. Researchers say the animal would have used its teeth to crunch through the exoskeletons of insects. Modern crocs have conical teeth and cannot chew their food. They have to swallow prey whole or in big chunks.

The researchers were led by Dr. Jeremy Martin (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique researcher at Laboratoire de Géologie de Lyon) and Dr. France de Lapparent de Broin (Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris). They used high-resolution CT scans to study the fossils. The crocodile has been named Lavocatchampsa sigogneaurussellae. The name honors French paleontologist René Lavocat and Dr. Denise Sigogneau-Russell and husband Dr. Donald Russell who acquired the fossil. A research paper on the crocodile species was published here in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Dr. Martin says in the announcement, "The Kem Kem Beds in Morocco have yielded a wealth of extinct creatures, mostly large animals, but with this discovery we realize that part of the ecosystem remains untapped, especially when it comes to small-bodied terrestrial vertebrates."

Photo: Jeremy E. Martin, Society of Vertebrate Palentology

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