PhD student fund fossils of 130 Million Years old Godzilla Crocodille

The fossilized remains were discovered a few inches below some sediment in Tunisia, specifically near the Sahara Desert’s edge. The collective was being supported by the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration, and was surprised to discover such “beautiful” fossils. This prehistoric crocodile is believed to have measured more than 30 feet long and weighed three tons. The skull alone is more than five feet long. Researchers named the new species the Machimosaurus rex and described their findings this week in the journal Cretaceous Research.

“Massive” is how lead author Federico Fanti of the University of Bologna described the crocodile. “It’s just big. It’s almost the size of a bus.”

He added: “It definitely was at the top of the food chain at the time, at least in this particular locality.”

Fanti and his team, supported by National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration, found the fossils buried below just a few inches of sediment on the edge of the Sahara Desert in Tunisia, a country rich with fossils.

“This one was a big surprise, not because we found fossils, but we found beautiful ones,” Fanti said. The skull took two days to uncover, and the “rest of the body was just lying there.”

This particular site was likely home to a lagoon that faced the ocean. Researchers also found the remains of fish and turtles that they still need to identify.

This particular site was likely home to a lagoon that faced the ocean. Researchers also found the remains of fish and turtles that they still need to identify.

The M. rex was “absolutely capable” of hunting in the water and could have been an ambush predator or a scavenger, Fanti said. Comparing M. rex to other crocodiles that also have big heads and short teeth suggests the M. rex had “a very incredibly powerful bite force” that would let it crush its food, Fanti said. Turtles, for instance, would have been an ideal meal.

An analysis of the crocodile revealed it had short teeth and a big head similar to other crocodiles, and that such a structure meant it could have “a very incredibly powerful bit force” making it a formidable hunter. In addition, the fossilized remains are about 130 million years old, making them the youngest ever discovered prehistoric crocodile bones. Previously, researchers believed such massive crocs went extinct 150 million years or so ago.

The M. rex was “absolutely capable” of hunting in the water and could have been an ambush predator or a scavenger, Fanti said. Comparing M. rex to other crocodiles that also have big heads and short teeth suggests the M. rex had “a very incredibly powerful bite force” that would let it crush its food, Fanti said. Turtles, for instance, would have been an ideal meal.

This discovery is groundbreaking for reasons other than girth; Fanti said this finding undermines previous theories about prehistoric life. The group of crocodiles that M. rex belongs to was considered to have gone extinct about 150 million years ago at the end of the Jurassic Period, but this particular M. rex lived about 130 million years ago.

talian researcher Federico Fanti, Miyashita’s longtime friend and collaborator, was part of a team that went digging for new fossils in Tataouine. The area, which served as the desert planet Tatooine in the first Star Wars movie, is one of the few places on Earth where researchers have easy access to rock that’s 130 million years old, Miyashita said. Few significant fossils have been discovered from that time in the cretaceous period, he said.

When Miyashita first saw a picture of the pristinely preserved skull, he realized an object he thought was a toothpick was really a hammer. Rex was huge — about 25 per cent larger than the biggest known crocodile. Furthermore, it was a saltwater crocodile, probably unrelated to other land-dwelling or freshwater crocodiles slinking around at the time.

Its fat, blunt teeth are perfect for crunching through bone — and probably turtle shells.

Previous studies pointed to “a big global extinction between the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods that wiped out a number of marine reptiles, including this group of reptiles,” Fanti said. M. rex lived way after this “hypothesized mass extinction.”

“That’s leading us to consider the mass extinction theory is wrong and that we should better understand what’s going on at the end of the Jurassic period,” Fanti said.

Alberta PhD students makes happy
Now, the University of Alberta PhD student is doing exactly what his hero wrote about in that childhood book — and their relationship remains so close that the protégé can now tease his mentor.

“The crocodile is larger than almost all meat-eating dinosaurs that Phil works on,” laughs Miyashita.

“So I’ve been playing a little ‘my-crocodile-is-bigger-than-your-dinosaur’ game and poking a little fun at that.”

The monster’s name is Machimosaurus rex, and was the largest and the last survivor of the marine crocodiles that terrorized the seas during the age of the dinosaurs, devouring turtles like popcorn.

Miyashita was summoned in 2014 after a team of Italian and Tunisian scientists found what appears to be a complete specimen near Tataouine, Tunisia, but only the 5-foot-long skull was recovered before political turmoil forced the dig to pause.

Still, that was enough for Miyashita and study leader Federico Fanti of the University of Bologna, who had three fast days to clean the skull and a day to study it — but as Miyashita says, “that was enough for us to be convinced it’s a new species.”

“We had to be a little brutal about it — we basically used our hands to scrape off the sediments and used litres of glue to stabilize the skull,” he says.

The team’s work, published in the journal Cretaceous Research, marks a major breakthrough in the study of prehistoric reptiles, and obviously, a very happy day for that kid from Japan, though he admit the really giddy part took place in Tunisia.

“Pretty much all the excitement is in the earlier phase of the research, when you see the fossils, work on the fossils, and write the paper about them,” he says.

“I’m sure musicians are thrilled most when they are playing, than when they release the album. I think that’s the same thing.”

Source

Comments

comments

svyatnyk