Big Jurassic crocodile discovery in Britain


This video says about itself:

2 October 2017

British waters are reassuringly free of deadly reptiles today – but 163 million years ago a sea crocodile dubbed the ‘Melksham monster’ lurked on our shores.

Scientists have established that the 10-foot long creature, named after the town in Wiltshire where its fossil was unearthed, lived in the warm, shallow seas that covered much of what is now Europe.

The heavily damaged fossil had been sitting in the archives of London’s Natural History Museum since 1875.

Its identification reveals that an extinct group of aquatic reptiles evolved millions of years earlier than was previously thought.

The creature’s powerful jaws and large, serrated teeth allowed it to feed on large prey including prehistoric squid, and it was one of the most fearsome predators of its day.

Modern crocodiles are largely found in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia. Their ancient ancestor is named Ieldraan melkshamensis after the Wiltshire town of Melksham where it was found preserved in clay.

Its name also means ‘older one’ because it was thought until now that the sub-family of prehistoric crocodiles to which it belongs – known as Geosaurini – originated in the Late Jurassic period, between 152 and 157 million years ago.

In fact, the latest discovery – together with detailed re-analysis of existing fossil evidence – suggests the group arose millions of years earlier, in the Middle Jurassic.

It was identified as a new species based on distinctive features of its skull, lower jaw and, in particular, its teeth.

Dr Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who was involved in the study, said: ‘The Melksham Monster would have been one of the top predators in the oceans of Jurassic Britain, at the same time that dinosaurs were thundering across the land.’

From the University of Edinburgh in Scotland:

Monstrous crocodile fossil points to early rise of ancient reptiles

October 2, 2017

A newly identified prehistoric marine predator has shed light on the origins of the distant relatives of modern crocodiles.

The discovery reveals that an extinct group of aquatic reptiles evolved millions of years earlier than was previously thought, researchers say.

Palaeontologists at the University of Edinburgh discovered the new species — which dates back 163 million years — by studying a heavily damaged fossil which was held in the Natural History Museum‘s archives for almost 150 years.

The ancient reptile — called Ieldraan melkshamensis — has been nicknamed the Melksham Monster after the town in England where it was unearthed.

Until now, it was thought that the sub-family of prehistoric crocodiles to which the new species belongs — known as Geosaurini — originated in the Late Jurassic period, between 152 and 157 million years ago.

However, the latest discovery — together with detailed re-analysis of existing fossil evidence — suggests that the group arose millions of years earlier, in the Middle Jurassic, the team says.

The little-studied specimen — acquired by the museum in 1875 — was identified as a new species based on distinctive features of its skull, lower jaw and, in particular, its teeth.

The study, published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, was carried out in collaboration with the Natural History Museum, London. The research was funded by Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions.

Davide Foffa, a PhD student in the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “It’s not the prettiest fossil in the world, but the Melksham Monster tells us a very important story about the evolution of these ancient crocodiles and how they became the apex predators in their ecosystem. Without the amazing preparation work done by our collaborators at the Natural History Museum, it would not have been possible to work out the anatomy of this challenging specimen.”

Mark Graham, Senior Fossil Preparator at the Natural History Museum, said: “The specimen was completely enclosed in a super-hard rock nodule with veins of calcite running through, which had formed around it during the process of fossilisation. This unyielding matrix had to be removed by force, using carbon steel tipped chisels and grinding wheels encrusted with industrial diamonds. The work took many hours over a period of weeks, and great care had to be taken to avoid damaging the skull and teeth as they became exposed. This was one tough old croc in life and death!”

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One thought on “Big Jurassic crocodile discovery in Britain

  1. Pingback: What dragonflies eat, new study | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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