Thursday, March 19, 2015

Triassic Crocodylomorph,Carnufex carolinensis, from North Carolina

Early crocodylomorph increases top tier predator diversity during rise of dinosaurs. 2015. Zanno, L., et al. Scientific Reports.

A newly discovered crocodilian ancestor may have filled one of North America's top predator roles before dinosaurs arrived on the continent. Carnufex carolinensis, or the "Carolina Butcher," was a 9-foot long, land-dwelling crocodylomorph that walked on its hind legs and likely preyed upon smaller inhabitants of North Carolina ecosystems such as armored reptiles and early mammal relatives.

Paleontologists recovered parts of Carnufex's skull, spine and upper forelimb from the Pekin Formation in Chatham County, North Carolina, deposited 231 million years ago in the beginning of the Late Triassic.

"Fossils from this time period are extremely important to scientists because they record the earliest appearance of crocodylomorphs and theropod dinosaurs, two groups that first evolved in the Triassic period, yet managed to survive to the present day in the form of crocodiles and birds," says Lindsay Zanno.