Crocodile ancestor dating back 150 million years gives insight into evolution

A newly identified species from 150 million years ago that was an ancestor to crocodiles has given experts an insight into how some animals evolved.

The Cricosaurus bambergensis fossil discovered in a quarry near Bamberg in Bavaria, Germany, in 2014 was found to be a previously unseen species when compared to other museum collections.

Digital images allowed further research to be carried out, showing it developed a tail fin and paddle-like limbs for life in the sea – bearing more resemblance to dolphins than crocodiles.

The slender animals fed on prey such as squid and small fish, and lived during the Jurassic era in shallow seas and lagoons.

Dr Mark Young, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences, took part in the study.

He said: “The rock formations of southern Germany continue to give us fresh insights into the age of dinosaurs.

“These rock layers were deposited at a time when Europe was covered by a shallow sea, with countries such as Germany and the UK being a collection of islands.”

It is expected the well-preserved fossil will give more understanding of a wider family of ancient animals, known as metriorhynchidae, which the species belonged to.

Sven Sachs, from the Naturkunde-Museum in Bamberg, who led the project, said: “The study reveals peculiar features at the palate that have not been described in any fossil crocodile so far.

“There are two depressions which are separated by a pronounced bar. It is not clear what these depressions were good for.”

The research is published in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

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