Researchers identify new species of prehistoric crocodile


Credit: Stephanie Drumheller-Horton
Around 95 million years ago, a giant relative of modern crocodiles ruled the coastlines and waterways of what would one day become north central Texas.
A team including the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Stephanie Drumheller-Horton has identified this species, Deltasuchus motherali.
The site that produced the new species was discovered in Arlington, Texas, in 2003 by amateur fossil hunters Art Sahlstein, Bill Walker, and Phil Kirchoff.
“Fossils from the Arlington Archosaur Site are helping fill in this gap, and Deltasuchus is only the first of several new species to be reported from the locality.”
Deltasuchus motherali is named for one of the site volunteers, Austin Motheral, who first uncovered the fossils of this particular crocodile with a small tractor when he was just 15 years old.
Work on the site is supported by a grant from the National Geographic Society, which is funding continued excavations and study of this unique fossil area.
Deltasuchus is the first of what may prove to be several new species described from this fossil site.
The area preserves a complete ancient ecosystem ranging from 95 million to 100 million years old, and its fossils are important in advancing the understanding of ancient North American land and freshwater ecosystems.
While most of Texas was covered by a shallow sea at the time, the Dallas-Fort Worth area was part of a large peninsula that jutted out from the northeast.
The peninsula was a lush environment of river deltas and swamps that teemed with wildlife, including dinosaurs, crocodiles, turtles, mammals, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, and plants.
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