New Crocodile Species Discovered In German Quarry

Posted: Feb 16 2017, 3:39pm CST | by , Updated: Feb 16 2017, 3:44pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

New Crocodile Species Discovered in German Quarry
Limestone slab contains the partial skeleton of Knoetschkesuchus crocodile. Credit: Daniela Schwarz
 

3D reconstruction of skull reveals detailed description of a small crocodile from Germany's Langenberg Quarry

The 3D reconstruction of few fossil fragments has possibly led to the discovery of a new species of a crocodile. The fossil remains of the tiny crocodile were found in Germany's Langenberg Quarry, which has proven to be a rich source of ancient marine fossils. 

The new fossil consists of two partial skeletons, both of which are remarkably well preserved. But most of the fossil is still buried in the sedimentary rock, which makes it difficult to examine it properly. 

The crocodile specimens were initially placed in Theriosuchus genus. However, when researchers recently did 3D reconstructed of one of the skull, they were shocked to find that it was likely an entirely different species of crocodile based on unique features of the skull, such as openings in the jaw bone and in front of the eye, as well as of tooth morphology.

3D reconstructions of the skull using micro-computed tomography allowed the detailed description of the ancient crocodile without risking damage to the fossil. This non invasive method is also very useful when the fossil is too fragile to examine. The crocodile has now been assigned to Knoetschkesuchus langenbergensis species which is represented by only two skulls.

“The study describes a new diminutive crocodile Knoetschkesuchus langenbergensis that lived around 154 Million years ago in Northwestern Germany," said lead researcher Daniela Schwarz from Leibniz Institute for Evolutionary and Biodiversity Research, Germany, 

Knoetschkesuchus belongs to the evolutionary lineage that leads to modern crocodiles and preserves - for the first time in this group - two skulls in 3D, allowing us detailed anatomical studies via micro-CT images. Our research is part of the Europasaurus-Project which studies the remains of a unique Jurassic island ecosystem in Northern Germany."

The study was published on February 15, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

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