An ancient relative of modern crocodiles was unearthed in Wyoming that dates back about 155 million years. Named Amphicotyleus milesi, it is a new species that was part of the crocodile-like family called goniopholidid. The skeletal remains were discovered in the East Camarasaurus Quarry in Wyoming's Albany County.
Referred to as the “uncle” of today’s crocodiles, it would have been quite frightening while it was alive as it measured 14 feet in length (4.3 meters) and weighed almost half a ton. The creature had 30 teeth that measured two inches in length and were sharp as a razor.
When Amphicotyleus milesi was alive during the late part of the Jurassic Period, Wyoming was much different than it is today with long and extreme periods of drought that were followed by several months of monsoons that would have caused flooding. Amphicotyleus milesi would have had to adapt to these drastic changes in the climate.
But probably its most incredible feature was the manner in which it breathed and how it originated as explained by palaeontologist Junki Yoshida from Japan's Hokkaido University, “Amphicotylus milesi has the backward extension of the nose duct and the short and curved tongue bone similar to modern crocodilians.” “This suggests that, by keeping their external nostrils above the water surface, the crocodilian ancestors could raise the valve at the tongue.”
Yoshida went on to say, “They could breathe underwater while holding prey in the mouth, as modern crocodilians do today,” adding, “Amphicotylus provides a novel insight into the aquatic adaptation toward modern crocodylians.” Incredibly, today’s crocodiles can hold their breath underneath the water for as long as an hour.
It is believed that Amphicotyleus milesi would have had a varied diet from small creatures such as fish frogs, turtles, and lizards, to much larger creatures like pterosaurs and even dinosaurs.
There are only about two dozen crocodile species that live on Earth today. However, back when the dinosaurs were alive, there were hundreds of species. At 14 feet in length and about half a ton in weight, Amphicotyleus milesi was nowhere near the largest during that time as some of the species could grow as long as 30 feet and weighed up to three tons – that’s six times heavier than A. milesi.
A picture of the remains found in Wyoming as well as what Amphicotyleus milesi would have looked like can be viewed here.
The study was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.