"Aegisuchus witmeri or 'Shieldcroc' is the earliest ancestor of our modern crocodiles to be found in Africa," Casey Holliday, co-researcher and assistant professor of anatomy at the University of Missouri, said. "Along with other discoveries, we are finding that crocodile ancestors are far more diverse than scientists previously realized."
Shieldcroc dates to the Late Cretaceous period, approximately 95 million years ago, part of the Cretaceous Era often called the "Age of the Dinosaurs."
But a number of recent discoveries have led to some scientists calling the era the "Age of the Crocs," Holliday said in a UM release Thursday.
The shield structure on the croc's head was likely used as a display structure to attract mates and intimidate enemies, and possibly as a thermo-regulator to control the temperature of the animal's head, he said.
The new species had a flatter skull and longer, thinner jaws than other known species.
"We believe Shieldcroc may have used its long face as a fish trap," study co-author Nick Gardner at Marshall University said. "It is possible that it lay in wait until an unsuspecting fish swam in front of it. Then, if it was close enough, Shieldcroc simply opened its mouth and ate the fish without a struggle, eliminating the need for strong jaws."
Gal Gadot cast as Wonder Woman for 'Batman vs. Superman'
Exploding whale video goes viral on Internet