200-Million-Year-Old Gigantic Crocodile Relative Unearthed In New Mexico

Posted: Sep 11 2016, 11:53am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 11 2016, 11:57am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


200-Million-Year-Old Gigantic Crocodile Relative Unearthed in New Mexico
Artist's rendering of a Vivaron haydeni that lived in Triassic Period. Credit: Matt Celeskey

Vivaron haydeni is only the sixth species of carnivorous archosaur from Triassic Period

Some 200 million years ago, a giant reptile used to live in what is now New Mexico. The reptile was the close relative of modern-day crocodile and has been declared a new species recently. 

The fossil of the giant creature, which has been given scientific name Vivaron haydeni, was originally discovered in 2009 in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico but it did not examine properly at the time and most of its fossil bones remained sealed in protective plaster jacket until 2014 when researchers from Virginia Tech decided to analyze the fossil.

“Initially, I cleaned fossils in the lab and worked on a project reconstructing soft tissue structures using computed tomographic, or CT, scans on the computer.” Emily Lessner, one of the two researchers involved in the study said.

Analysis of jaw bones, skull fragments and hip bones revealed that the reptile does not belong to any documented species. It represents a new distinct species of reptiles whose features closely resembles to modern crocodiles. The creature was measured 12 to 18 feet long and was the sixth large predatory archosaurs species dating back to Triassic Period (212 million years ago). It was at this time that the supercontinent Pangea existed, which broke apart around 175 million years ago. 

“These were some of the biggest predators at the time; all dinosaurs were much smaller.” Co-author Sterling Nesbitt said.

The thing that sets this species apart from all the other rauisuchids found in the region is its upper jaw bone, which is relatively smooth in appearance. The species is given name Vivaron haydeni due to its gigantic body. Traditional New Mexican lore describes a 30-feet long monstrous snake, named El Vivaron, The ancient reptile was fearsome enough to be worth of its name. 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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