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EARLY CROCS ETC.
Hi all. Jeff Poling asked some questions, and here's a few things that might
be useful to some degree. I'd like to take this opportunity to say to Jeff and
everyone else that I think his web-site is *really* good. Anyway..
> a) A source that has good artists' renderings of the very first
> crocodylians (the erect stance beasties Georgie talked about), and maybe
> some pictures of the fossils as well. A good book on crocs from the
> beginning to today might be helpful as well.
Early crocodilians are, surprise surprise, barely ever illustrated at all well
and there are literally only a handful of accurate, published life restorations.
IMHO, the very best is Dino Frey's galloping _Protosuchus richardsoni_. This can
be seen in:
FREY, E. 1988. Das Tragsystem der Krokodile - eine biomechanische und
phylogenetische Analyse. _Stuttgarter Beitr. Naturk. (Ser. A)_ 426
FREY, E. and REISS, J. Konstrucktionsprinzipien von Wirbeltieren. IN
_Internationalen Symposium des SFB 230 Naturliche Konstruktionen - Leichtbau in
Architektur und Natur_
Sorry the refs are incomplete. Ask for the galloping _Protosuchus_ and most
people will know what you're talking about anyway. Somewhat more accessible no
doubt is a fairly good restoration of the S. African _Orthosuchus_ (Nash ?1974)
that you can see in:
BUFFETAUT, E. 1979. The Evolution of the Crocodiles. _Sci. Amer._ 241 (4): 124-
132 (_Orthosuchus_ on p. 130)
A painting by Tony Pyrzakowski, and essentially copied from the rendition cited
above, is on p. 29 of:
ROSS, C.A. (consulting ed.) 1989. _Crocodiles and Alligators_. Merehurst Press
(London), pp. 240
Both illustrations nicely demonstrate the uncertainty some folk have over
whether early crocs were amphibious or terrestrial (in the _Sci. Am._ article,
one of the crocodiles is climbing out of the water while the other just has the
tip of its tail in the water; in Pyrzakowski's illustration, the one animal
illustrated still has its tail tip in the water). These animals could doubtless
swim if they had to, but I think they stayed on land. Believe me, if you were
alive when there were *phytosaurs* in the water, you would _not_ want to go
As yet, there is no good popular review of fossil crocodiles (an end currently
being pursued?). The only book that comes close is:
STEEL, R. 1989. _Crocodiles_ Christopher Helm (Bromley, Kent), pp. 198
Steel is a palaeontologist, and a croc-specialist (he did the croc volume of
_Handbook of Palaeoherpetology_ I believe), so treatment of all extinct taxa in
this book is moderately good. However, the scant illustrations and photos are
pretty damn awful, the book is horribly overpriced, and I think it's OOP anyway.
Also check out David Peters' book _A Gallery of Dinosaurs and other Early
Reptiles_ (or something similar, sorry, don't have the complete ref). The text
is for kids, but what I've seen of the illustrations just blow me away (of his
crocs, I've only seen _Deinosuchus_ and _Baurusuchus_).
To get anything useful on early crocs, you'd have to get hold of loads of
technical literature. If you don't have access to ref lists, ask around.
Betty gave a good response to the Antarctic questions, so I won't bother with
those. All I'm aware of in any case are odd little articles here and there, plus
there's been a number of things in _Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology,
Palaeoceanography_ on the development of the circum-antarctic current and the
affects it had on Tertiary mammalian faunas. I recall the discovery of a 30
million year old 'tropical forest' on Antarctica, plus there's a phorusrhacoid
and a couple of land mammals. If we could get through the ice to the rocks, you
can bet that Antarctica has a fantastic fossil record of which we know next to
As for the dinosaurs, there are many little news articles and such on
_Cryolophosaurus_ and all that. Want refs?
> d) A good source on snake evolution
Again, not really any such thing as yet. Chris Mattison has a new book on
rattlesnakes that deals rather nicely with their history, but there's no good
popular review. Shame, as snakes seem to have a rather good fossil record
(largely limited to vertebrae of course!). I recall an expert on fossil snakes
de-cloaking somewhere round these parts - where is he now? You gotta ask him.
Doubtless it'll be referral to the technical literature once again really -
_Journal of Zoology_ had a paper on snake evolution the other month. The
cladogram figured was rather radical - the viperid-crotalid group outgrouped
*before* the 'primitive' snakes (pythons, boas, etc.), meaning that (if correct)
there were primitive vipers in the late Cretaceous. Anyone know more?
> e) A good source for lots of money
Go into politics, then vote yourself a massive payrise (did you know that the
British parliament recently awarded themselves a whopping **24%** payrise???).
"We're saved! Seagulls only come out at sea to die!"
["Wait a minute. I think I smell a Krusty burger!" -- MR ]