Scientists have unearthed fossil specimens of a giant ancient croc that weighed 900 pounds and was 16 feet long. It had an unusually short, blunt snout and large jaw muscles that gave it a powerful bite. Paleontologists believe this ancient croc battled monster snakes and ate turtles. This extinct dyrosaur, a kind of crocodilian, roamed an ancient South American rainforest a few million years after most dinosaurs died, reports Megan Gannon of Live Science.
Scientists name the ancient croc after Balrog in The Lord of the Rings
Scientists have now given this ancient croc a name: Anthracosuchus balrogus. It was named after the Balrog that hung around in the Middle-Earth mines in J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Lord of the Rings. Jonathan Bloch, associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said that A. balrogus was recovered from the fossil-rich Cerrejón coal mine of northern Colombia. Four specimens of the ancient croc are estimated to be 60 million years old. In the same Cerrejón coal mine, researchers have previously found the skeletons of the world’s largest snake, a 48-foot long Titanoboa. Big turtles with several-inch-thick shells have also been found in the mine. The croc is the third new species of crocodilian found at the Cerrejón coal mine. The newly named ancient croc was from an intrepid family called the dyrosaurids.
How did the ancient croc survived the mass extinction?
Scientists say these creatures first came evolved in Africa. They migrated across the Atlantic to reach South America about 75 million years ago. Surprisingly, they survived the mass extinction that eliminated dinosaurs from the earth about 65 million years ago. A. balrogus successfully adopted to the freshwater ecosystems of South American rainforest, which was much warmer at the time than it is today. Martin Luther University researcher Alex Hastings said this discovery offers clues as to how ancient animals survived catastrophes and mass extinctions. Hastings and his fellow researchers described the newly discovered ancient croc last month in the Historical Biology journal.