Protosuchus (Protosuchus richardsoni) from Arizona was a scary reptile that resembled modern crocodiles and existed in the early Jurassic period. Three species of Protosuchus existed during this age- P. richardsoni, P. haughtoni, and P. micmac, whose fossils were excavated from Arizona, South Africa, and Nova Scotia respectively. Their scaly body had a double row of bony plates on the upper back and a powerful tail. They were five-toed and were vicious predators. They preyed on a variety of fish and smaller dinosaurs. Paleontologists also described them as competitive predators, who often engaged in duels with the opportunistic Coelophysis dinosaurs.
These crocodilian species were both terrestrial as well as aquatic but hunted more often on the land. Their hind limbs were longer in nature than their forelimbs. The fossil specimens highlight the powerful jaw of these species along with other crocodilian characteristics. The related modern-day crocodiles evolved from this species of Protosuchus. This genus was described by C.E Gow in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, which was first published in the year 2000. Keep on reading to discover more menacing traits of this prehistoric crocodile.
The Protosuchus was not a dinosaur. It was a reptile that belonged to the Protosuchidae family. The present-day crocodiles have evolved from this species.
The name Protosuchus is pronounced as Pro-toe-soo-kus.
It was a carnivorous crocodylomorph that belonged to the Protosuchidae family.
These crocodilians (Protosuchus sp.) existed from the late Triassic to the early Jurassic period. Several other reptilians, like the cotylosaurs, the therapsids, and also the Morganucodon, lived during the Late Triassic till the beginning of the Jurassic period.
The crocodilian Protosuchus became extinct about 200 million years ago. Natural disasters like forest fires, climate change, rise in sea-level as well as predatory dinosaurs led to their extinction.
The fossil of this genus was excavated from three different locations, which suggests the presence of three different species of Protosuchus. P. richardsoni was found in Arizona, P. micmac from Nova Scotia, and the remains of P. haughtoni were retrieved from South Africa.
These reptiles resided in a wide range of habitats. They were both aquatic and terrestrial, and therefore inhabited grassland plains as well as water bodies, though they hunted more frequently on the lands.
The social nature of these earliest crocodiles is not known due to a lack of data. However, their related crocodile species of the present day are known to be highly social animals.
No data is available regarding their life span. However, the Protosuchus were ancestors of the present-day crocodile, and hence, we can assume that they probably had a lifespan of about 50-60 years.
Although not much data is available on the nature of reproduction of the Protosuchus, we can assume their reproduction type based on the fact that these animals were ancestors of the present-day crocodiles. The earliest crocodilians may have reproduced sexually and their eggs were massive. Females were probably territorial in nature and guarded their eggs.
Research on these crocodilian remains suggests that they had a terrifying appearance. Their body was scaley and the upper surface had bony plates. Their limbs were five-toed with sharp claws. The research article published by C.E Gow, in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology in the year 2000, described the jaws of these animals as wide, whose bases were attached with strong muscles. This helped them to grasp their prey in the mouth easily. The dentition in their mouth shared similarities with the present-day crocodilians. The Protosuchus skull had the eyes placed on the lateral sides. Their length was about 3.3 ft (1 m) and they are given different names like Baroqueosuchus, Lesothosuchus by different researchers.
The fossil of this crocodilian was partially excavated and hence, the total number of bones present in them is not known. Only the skull, vertebrae, jaws, and limb bones were retrieved from the site. These findings suggest that they were ancient crocodiles and relative to the present-day species.
The exact communication pattern in these earlier existing crocodiles is unknown, due to a lack of data. But we can assume that they could have communicated with other animal species both vocally and visually.
The fossil comprising their skull, jaw, and limb bones provides an estimation that these earlier existing crocodiles were quite big in size, and were about 3.3 ft (1 m) in length. However, they were more than 13 times smaller than the T. rex, which had a length of 40 ft (12.2 m).
The data collected from their fossil highlights their limb bones. Paleontologists confirmed that these early crocodilians were extremely good runners and flexible swimmers. They were able to ambush their prey in no time with the help of their powerful jaw muscles.
C.E Gow published in his Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology about the weight of this prehistoric reptile to be about 88.2 lb (40 kg).
No specific names have been used to refer to the male and female ancient crocodilian species.
A baby Protosuchus could be called a hatchling or a nestling, owing to the fact that crocodiles lay eggs.
Among all their features, the jaw possessed by this animal was wide and was attached with powerful muscles. Their skull bone was also wide. All these features suggest that they were carnivorous in nature, and probably ate fish and smaller dinosaurs. The Protosuchus tooth helped them to easily pierce through the flesh of other animals. They were also engaged in duels with predatory dinosaurs, like the Coelophysis dinosaurs.
The fossil of this species excavated comprised the wide skull, the bony surface on their back, and their sharp teeth. Among all these features, the most menacing was the powerful jaw, which was connected with strong muscles. Considering all these characteristics, we can assume that these early crocodiles were aggressive in nature. The males were known to involve themselves in fights with the help of their sharp teeth and mighty jaws and thus, intimidated other animals.
The discovery of the remains of Protosuchus was first published in the paper, The Ancestral Crocodilian Protosuchus, in the year 1951, by Edwin Colbert and Charles Mook. However, the actual finding of the fossil of this ancient crocodile was explained by Colbert and Mook in their paper, which said that a Navajo Indian found a fossil in Arizona. This led to the discovery of several other fossilized bones of this species, which were about 20 ft (609.6 cm) in length, found in that same region by Barnum Brown and Hubert Richardson. The name of this species was first given by them as Archaeosuchus richardsoni.
The name Protosuchus means 'first crocodile', and since this animal was an ancestral relative to the present-day crocodiles, it was called by this name. All the crocodile species present day have evolved from the primitive Protosuchus of the early Jurassic period. This name was coined by the American paleontologist, Barnum Brown in the year 1934.
Barnum Brown and Hubert Richardson discovered the fossils of Protosuchus.
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