Small Cretaceous Crocodile May Have Preyed on Baby Titanosaurs

Small Cretaceous Crocodile May Have Preyed on Baby Titanosaurs

A new genus and species of sebecosuchian crocodyliform that roamed Earth during the Cretaceous period has been identified from a partial skeleton found in a titanosaur nesting area in Catalonia, Spain.

Life restoration of Ogresuchus furatus. Image credit: Aina and Agnès Amblás / Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont.

Named Ogresuchus furatus, the ancient crocodile lived approximately 71.5 million years ago (Late Cretaceous epoch).

It belongs to the family Sebecidae in the clade Sebecosuchia, a group of highly specialized crocodyliforms that diversified during the Cretaceous and persisted until the end of the Miocene.

These creatures were active terrestrial predators that could even compete with medium-size carnivorous dinosaurs.

Ogresuchus furatus was about 1.1 m (3.6 feet) long and had a body mass of 9 kg, making it one of the smallest and lightest sebecosuchids ever discovered.

“The main feature of sebecids is that, unlike extant crocodiles, they had their limbs under their body,” said lead author Dr. Albert Selles, a paleontologist at the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont, the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Museu de La Conca Dellà.

“This anatomical trait would have allowed the animal to move in a similar way to extant mammals and become efficient predators.”

Skeletal remains of Ogresuchus furatus: (A, C) photographic and (B, D) interpretative draws of the postcranial (A, B) and cranial (C, D) elements, and (E) silhouette showing preserved elements of Ogresuchus furatus. Abbreviations: cv – caudal vertebra, dv – dorsal vertebra, fe – femur, gr – groves, lul – left ulna, lt – left tibia, m1-4 – maxillary tooth, mc – metacarpal, nvf – neuro-vascular foramens, r – rib, rt – right tibia, sa – sacral. Scale bars – 1 cm for (C, D) and 10 cm for (E). Image credit: Sellés et al., doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-71975-y.

The skeletal remains of Ogresuchus furatus and numerous eggshell fragments were found in a nesting ground of titanosaurian dinosaurs at the paleontological site of El Mirador in Coll de Nargó area, Lleida Province, Catalonia.

“Probably the young dinosaurs were not its main source of food, but they would have been an easy prey, according to the anatomical features of this crocodile,” Dr. Sellés said.

Ogresuchus furatus also represents the earliest record of Sebecidae worldwide and the first known from Eurasia.

Ogresuchus furatus is 10 million years older than any other sebecid known to date, so this finding drives us to redefine the evolutionary history of the whole family,” Dr. Selles and colleagues said.

“According to our interpretations, sebecids may have originated prior to the full break of Gondwana.”

The team’s paper was published online in the September 17, 2020 edition of the journal Scientific Reports.

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A.G. Sellés et al. 2020. A small Cretaceous crocodyliform in a dinosaur nesting ground and the origin of sebecids. Sci Rep 10, 15293; doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-71975-y

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