Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers Discover ‘Great-Grandmother’ of Crocodiles

In the tropical rainforests of West Texas, which looked more like Costa Rica some 225 million years before cattle ranches and cotton fields would dot the landscape, it hunted by chasing and wrapping its tooth-filled jaws around its prey.

Modern man probably wouldn’t recognize its body, which was built more for land speed than aquatic surprise, said Sankar Chatterjee, curator of paleontology at the Museum of Texas Tech. That is, until we saw the eyes and unmistakable head of possibly the oldest crocodile ancestor found to date.

The fossil was discovered on a ranch and prepared by Doug Cunningham, fossil preparator at the Museum of Texas Tech University. Chatterjee said he has yet to name the animal, and it probably won’t debut in scientific literature for another two years.

Thanks to a new CT scanner at Texas Tech’s Department of Petroleum Engineering, he was able to look inside the skull of this animal to study the brain case and sinus cavities.

“This is a brand new animal and possibly the great-grandmother of all crocodiles,” he said. “It was still walking. These early crocodiles look like your typical terrestrial animals. An intact skull is very rare to find. One of the exciting things is we were able to see inside its brain case with the CT scan. We can see the brain evolved very slowly.”

Shameem Siddiqui, the Kerr-McGee Professor of Petroleum Engineering, collaborated with Chatterjee on the project. He said his CT scanner usually is used to study fluid flow through different types of rocks. However, it also can serve as a tool for imaging fossilized bones, and Siddiqui paired with Chatterjee this fall to learn more about the crocodile.

“When we scanned one of the samples with bones encrusted in the rock, we were able to find some hidden pieces of the crocodile,” Siddiqui said. “That was exciting. When we did the 3-D imaging of the skull, it was equally as exciting. Already, Sankar and I have been talking about using the CT scanner to measure bone density of more recent crocodiles and compare the data with bone densities of this ancient crocodile.”

The newly discovered crocodile ancestor came on the scene about the same time as dinosaurs began evolving, Chatterjee said. The animal’s hind limbs, hip girdle and tail clearly suggest this was a land animal. Bones show the animal was adapted to walking or running. In modern aquatic crocodiles, the legs are small, and the tail creates the forward thrust by undulation it needs to move quickly in the water.

The strong similarity lies in the ankle joint and braincase, he said.

“It has lots of sinuses in the braincase like those of modern crocs,” Chatterjee said. “These sinuses may be linked to their vocalization. Unlike most reptiles, crocs are very vocal and hear well. We described a similar animal from China that gives us some idea about the way this animal lived.

“Leaving land for the water was probably the smartest thing crocodiles and alligators did. That way, they didn’t encounter the dinosaurs like other animals did.”

Watch the interviews here:

CONTACT: Sankar Chatterjee, curator of paleontology at the Museum of Texas Tech, (806) 787-4332, or; Shameem Siddiqui, Kerr-McGee Professor of Petroleum Engineering, Department of Petroleum Engineering, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-3573 or

John Davis | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica
26.10.2016 | University of California - Irvine

nachricht Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere
25.10.2016 | American Geophysical Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>