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News: =?unknown?q?Croc-=91cat=92?= prowled the Jurassic
From: Ben Creisler firstname.lastname@example.org
In case this story has not been mentioned yet:
Croc-?cat? prowled the Jurassic
By By GARY HARMON The Daily Sentinel
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Cradling a 150-million-year-old chunk of bone in his hand, John Foster is
vividly aware he is holding something of a paleontological reversal of
Most times, paleontologists have leg or backbones to study and frequently
have only their well-informed imaginations to guide them about what lurked
at the end of the neck.
?This time I?m actually wishing we had a part of the skeleton to go with
the skull,? said Foster, curator of paleontology for the Museum of Western
Colorado?s Dinosaur Journey in Fruita.
But what a skull.
The tiny crocodilian had a caninelike tooth hanging down from the top of
its jaw and a double pair of fangs jutting up from the bottom of the jaw.
The eyehole, or orbit, seems oversized compared to the rest of the head.
The skull he?s holding is that of a terrestrial crocodile, not quite like
the modern-day, short-legged aquatic crocodiles.
Put a long, sinewy body and slender but powerful legs behind that skull and
you have something a bit different from the rest of the animals that
covered the Earth during the Age of the Dinosaurs.
?I call them the cats of the Jurassic,? Foster said.
This one might well have been engaged in some raccoon-like behavior.
It was found by paleontologist Harley Armstrong some years ago in an early
Jurassic site in western Colorado known for its fossilized egg-shell
fragments, Foster said.
It?s possible the owner of the skull was raiding the egg site when he died,
?This guy probably ate a whole bunch of stuff, anything close to his size
or smaller,? from tiny mammals to smaller lizards of the day, he said.
This crocodile is an intriguing find not only on its own, but because of
its resemblance to another terrestrial croc found in the Fruita
Paleontological Area, dubbed Fruitachampsa callisoni, pending official
naming of the creature, Foster said.
The egg-site croc is older by some 7 million to 8 million years than
Fruitachampsa, but the skull also reveals a marked, if inexplicable,
While Fruitachampsa?s palate is ridged and pitted, not unlike the top of a
human mouth, the egg raider had a smooth palate, Foster said.
Exactly what the relationship is between the egg raider and Fruitchampsa
still has to be worked out, Foster said.
That?s going to have to wait for Fruitachampsa callisoni to be officially
recognized, though, Foster said. It?s named for Grand Junction
paleontologist George Callison, who led the expedition that resulted in the
Only then can paleontologists tackle the question as to whether the egg
raider is a different species than Fruitachampsa or a new genus, Foster
Gary Harmon can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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