May 18, 2010
It’s not a dinosaur, but it may have eaten some of their ancestors.
Last week paleontologists from Lutheran University discovered the nearly complete skeleton of the 238-million-year-old predator Prestosuchus chiniquensis in the Late Triassic rock near the Brazilian town of Dona Francisca. The exceptionally preserved skeleton is immense—the individual would have been over 20 feet long in life—and represents an apex predator from the time after the Permian mass extinction shook up the world’s ecosystems but before large dinosaurian predators evolved. Indeed, even though it might certainly look dinosaur-like, it was instead part of a group of archosaurs more closely related to crocodiles than to dinosaurs, a peculiar lineages of predators called rauisuchians that flourished during the Triassic but became extinct around the end of that period.
It will take a number of years to fully study and describe this new specimen, but I am personally very excited about it. After being enthralled by a mount of Prestosuchus on display at the American Museum of Natural History years ago I found it nearly impossible to find more information about it. Outside of its original description and mentions in a few other studies, relatively little has been done with Prestosuchus, and I am eagerly awaiting the conclusions paleontologists will be able to draw from this exquisite new specimen.
[Hat-tip to Susan at Crurotarsi: The Forgotten Archosaurs for catching this story.]
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