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Brazilian Croc Find Supports Land Links Theories



http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=QONWIQSLHRFL2CRBAEKSFFA?type=scienceNews&storyID=7651171

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) - A unique, nearly complete fossilized
skeleton of a prehistoric crocodile found in Brazil backs up theories that
there were land links between South America and Madagascar about 70
million years ago.

Presenting the new species on Wednesday, Prof. Ismar de Souza Carvalho of
Rio de Janeiro Federal University said the Uberabasuchus terrificus, or
the terrible crocodile of Uberaba, shed light on the splitting of the
ancient super-continent known as Gondwana following Africa's breakaway.

"Similar crocodiles have been found before in Patagonia in Argentina and
in Madagascar, so we are postulating that there were terrestrial bridges
connecting South America, Antarctica and Madagascar," he told Reuters
after the presentation.

That also means that Antarctica was much warmer at the time than now,
allowing the migration of species, he said. 
...
As opposed to modern-day crocodiles that live in or near the water,
Uberabasuchus was a mainly terrestrial animal with rather long and
well-developed legs.

Measuring up to 10 feet and weighing about 660 pounds, Uberabasuchus was
smaller than some existing crocodiles, but probably a more notable
predator.

"It was an extreme predator. We believe dinosaurs, even young Titanosaurs,
could be his prey. Practically everything that lived then was on his
menu," said Leonardo dos Santos Avilla, another researcher. The
prehistoric crocodile's teeth were strong enough to open a big tortoise
carapace, he added.

The completeness of the fossil made it possible to study the way the
Uberabasuchus, which has no direct connection with modern-day crocodiles,
moved and hunted in the times when dinosaurs still roamed the planet.

"This is one of the most complete fossils found and the most complete for
a crocodylomorpha on the former Gondwana territory," said Avilla, one of
the scientists who described the Uberabasuchus after the find in 2000.

Using mathematical analysis of known prehistoric crocodiles from the
Gondwana area with the insertion of the newly-found species, the Brazilian
scientists proposed 12 new groups to better organize their forms and
characteristics.