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Tiny crocodile fossil may be new species

Knoetschkesuchus belongs to the evolutionary lineage that leads to modern crocodiles and preserves for the first time in this groupĀ­ two skulls in 3D," said researcher Daniela Schwarz.

By
Brooks Hays
Three-dimensional images of a newly unearthed croc skull -- recovered from a slab of limestone in Germany -- revealed a new species from the Jurassic period. Photo by Schwarz et al./PLOS ONE
Three-dimensional images of a newly unearthed croc skull -- recovered from a slab of limestone in Germany -- revealed a new species from the Jurassic period. Photo by Schwarz et al./PLOS ONE

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Scientists have recovered the fossilized remains of tiny-headed crocodile from the time of the dinosaurs. Their analysis suggests the specimen is a new species.

Germany's Langenberg Quarry has offered scientists a treasure trove of Late Jurassic fossils over the decades. The quarry has proven especially rich in marine vertebrates.

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The most recent discovery, a pair of small crocodile-like atoposaurids, proved especially difficult to separate from the strata's limestone and cemented sediments, so scientists used micro-computed tomography to build a 3D reconstruction of one of the two skulls.

Scientists determined the skull was unlike any previously identified atoposaurid species. Scientists initially assigned the specimens to the genus Theriosuchus, but after analyzing the skull in 3D decided the specimens deserved their own genus. They named the croc Knoetschkesuchus langenbergensis.

Researchers described the new species in PLOS ONE.

"The study describes a new diminutive crocodile Knoetschkesuchus langenbergensis that lived around 154 million years ago in northwestern Germany," Daniela Schwarz, a paleontologist at the Leibniz Institute for Evolutionary and Biodiversity Research, said in a news release. "Knoetschkesuchus belongs to the evolutionary lineage that leads to modern crocodiles and preserves for the first time in this groupĀ­ two skulls in 3D, allowing us detailed anatomical studies via micro-CT images."

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