Scientists claim the fossil will help fill evolutionary gaps of the 74 million year long crocodilian lineage
Fossils of a massive predator supposed to be from the Jurassic period were discovered on Madagascar a decade ago, scientists naming the creature “Razanandrongobe skalavae”, or “giant lizard ancestor from the Sakalava region”.
However, scientists could not determine where the fossil would be placed on the evolutionary tree – it shared features with both theropods (the group of dinosaurs to which famed predator Tyrannosauraus Rex belongs) and crocodylomorphs (crocodiles and their extinct predecessors).
Scientists from France and Italy re-examined the fossils, and placed them in the suborder Nortosuchia, of the crocodylomorphs. These creatures lived during the Cretaceous period and similar fossils have been found in South America, Asia, Europe and Africa.
- Skalavae has been deemed the oldest and largest of the suborder ever discovered, predating other Nortosuchias by 42 million years. Although fossil evidence is limited, scientists estimate it was likely over 40 feet long.
‘Razana’ was a super-predator at the top of the food chain
Cristiano Dal Sasso, of the Natural History Museum of Milan, Italy stated that the R. Skalavae , or ‘Razana’ as it has been nicknamed in Italy, was likely at the top of the food chain, competing with T-Rex.
“Like these and other gigantic crocs from the Cretaceous [period], ‘Razana’ could outcompete even theropod dinosaurs, at the top of the food chain.”
R. Sakalavae diet consisted of bone or other hard tissues, according to an analysis of the fossil’s teeth – which were as large as those of a T-Rex.
Co-author of the study Simone Maganuco said that the fossil’s geographic position during the time that Madagascar was separating from the supercontinent Gondwana is “. . . strongly suggestive of an endemic lineage.”
The research team concludes that their analysis “ . . . contributes to filling in a gap in the group’s evolution, which contains a long ghost lineage in the Jurassic.”