Tue, Jun 14, 2005 - Page 16 News List

Prehistoric crocodile on display

The fossil of a prehistoric 400kg crocodile that roamed the earth 90 million years ago is now availablefor viewing in Brazil

AFP , RIO DE JANEIRO

A model of a Baurusuchus salgadoensis is displayed at the University of Rio in Brazil. Scientists unveiled 11 skeletons of prehistoric crocodiles.

PHOTO: AP

Brazilian paleontologists last week proudly put on display a skeleton of a crocodile that roamed the earth in the time of the dinosaurs 90 million years ago.

The remains of the Baurusuchus salgadoensis were well preserved and included a complete head, said Pedro Henrique Nobre from the University of Rio department of geology, where the presentation was held.

"Finding a fossil is rare, but finding a collection of fossils [from the same animal] is even more rare and finding an intact head is extraordinary," Nobre said.

The Baurusuchus was 3.5m long, and scientists estimate it weighed 400kg.

The paleontologists also presented a life-size reconstruction of what they believe the creature looked like.

The Baurusuchus remains were found 15 years ago in the western region of the state of Sao Paulo. It is the first time they have gone on display after years of restoration.

Unlike modern-day crocodiles, the Baurusuchus lived on land in a dry area. The location of the creature's nasal pasages indicated that it could not spend much time underwater, Nobre said.

The reptile had longer and more powerful rear legs than modern crocodiles, and the animal's teeth indicte that it was an active predator, he added.

The Baurusuchus belongs to the same family of ancient reptiles whose remains have been found in Argentina, southern Africa and the region between India and Pakistan. The scientists said their discovery suggests that an ancient land bridge linked South America to Indo-Pakistan.

The creature lived in the Cretaceous period, which lasted from 144 to 65 million years ago. It was the last period during which dinosaurs lived.

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