Prehistoric, dinosaur-eating crocodile identified at fossil site in Texas

Researchers have identified a new species of ancient crocodile that once hunted in what is now Dallas-Fort Worth
By Clint Huston | Sep 16, 2017
A team comprised of researchers from multiple U.S. universities have identified a new ancient crocodile species that once feasted on dinosaurs, a study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology reports.

The ancient reptile -- known as Deltasuchus motherali -- grew up to 20 feet long and ate everything in its ecosystem, from fish to turtles to large predators.

Researchers first uncovered the bones at the center of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. A team of amateur fossil hunters found the site in 2003, and it has been excavated many times since. In fact, as the area is undergoing rapid residential development, paleontologists have been working hard with local volunteers and fossil enthusiasts over the last 10 years to uncover as many remains in the region as they can.

The reason the site is so important is because many of the bones come from the Cretaceous period, which has a lot of gaps in the fossil record that scientists have yet to fill, Gears of Biz reports.

"We simply don't have that many North American fossils from the middle of the Cretaceous, the last period of the age of dinosaurs, and the eastern half of the continent is particularly poorly understood," said study co-author Stephanie Drumheller-Horton, a researcher at the University of Tennessee, in a statement. "Fossils from the Arlington Archosaur Site are helping fill in this gap, and Deltasuchus is only the first of several new species to be reported from the locality."

Though many bones have been found in the region over the years, Deltasuchus may be the first of what researchers believe could be several new species described from the site. Though it is quite dry now, Dallas-Fort Worth used to be a lush environment made up of river deltas and swamps. Those wetlands held many different species, including dinosaurs, crocodiles, turtles, mammals, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, and plants. As a result, not only do the bones help researchers look back into the time of the dinosaurs, but they may also help them better understand the ancient ecosystems of North America.

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