Experts have named a new species of a prehistoric crocodile based on fossilized remains found in Texas. Get to know the Deltasuchus motherali, a Cretaceous-period predator.
A new prehistoric crocodilian species has just been described by researchers in a report published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Dr. Thomas Adams of the Witte Museum, Dr. Stephanie Drumheller-Horton of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Dr. Christopher Noto of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside worked together to identify the new species.
The Deltasuchus motherali is the first described among the expected several species in the area. Adults of the species were found to be able to grow up to 20 feet (6 meters) long and left bite marks on their prey, which could range from smaller creatures such as turtles to larger creatures such as dinosaurs. Because of this, researchers believe that the Deltasuchus motherali was a predator that simply ate whatever they wanted. In fact, lead author of the study, Dr. Adams even descricbes the crocodile as "top predators in its ecosystem."
They named the species Deltasuchus motherali after Austin Motheral, the site volunteer, who was just 15-years-old when he discovered the fossils with a small tractor. The fossils are now a part of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.
Texan Fossil Finds
In 2003, amateur fossil hunters Phil Kirchoff, Bill Walker, and Art Sahlstein discovered the fossilized remains of the Deltasuchus motherali in Arlington, Texas, right at the center of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Called the Arlington Archosaur Site, paleontologists are quickly excavating the site for other fossil finds, as the area is also being rapidly developed into a prime residential area. The excavation in the area is funded by the National Geographic Society in hopes of advancing knowledge about the North American prehistoric ecosystem.
"We simply don't have that many North American fossils from the middle of the Cretaceous, the last period of the age of dinosaurs, and the eastern half of the continent is particularly poorly understood," said Drumheller-Horton.
It is because of this that the site is even more important, as it is considered a unique fossil area that preserves the ecosystem from 95 to 100 million years ago.
We may not see it now, but 100 million years ago, Texas was actually covered by shallow seawater. Further, the Dallas-Fort Worth area was a part of a peninsula with swamps and rivers that were the likely habitats of prehistoric fish, plants, dinosaurs, amphibians, invertebrates, and crocodiles.