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Re: New sphenosuchian crocodile from China
[ Held up by the uysual technical glitch. This is the "earlier" news
release Ben referred to in a message that to you came... earlier.
-- MPR ]
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Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 21:42:46 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: New sphenosuchian crocodile from China
From: Ben Creisler bh480
preview of article in this week's Nature:
How croc got its smile
24/08/2004 13:04 - (SA)
Paris - Crocodiles developed their characteristic wide skull and "smiley"
jaws millions of years before they ventured from the land and into water,
according to a study of a crocodilian ancestor found in China.
The fossil, which dates back to the Middle Jurassic period of between 144 and
205 million years ago, is of a creature called a sphenosuchian, measuring
about 1.5 metres at most, and is believed to be the most directly-related
forerunner of today's crocodiles and ancestors.
The specimen has the thick, broad skull familiar of the croc, pointing to the
powerful jaw muscles that are used to crush its victims to death.
But it also has slender, erect limbs and graceful hands that are aligned with
the rest of the forelimb - rather than splayed out as in living crocodilians
- - and this shows sphenosuchians were designed for walking on the ground.
"The consolidation of the crocodilian skull thus began well before
crocodilians entered the water," says the study, lead-authored by George
University palaeontologist James Clark.
The research appears on Thursday in Nature, the British weekly science
Living crocodilians comprise three families in 23 species, divided into three
families - crocodiles; alligators and caimans; and a third family called
These creatures have remained essentially unchanged for 65 million years,
making them among the most successful animals in the world today.
The fossil studied by Clark's team was found in Wucaiwang, Xinjiang province,
in northeastern China.
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