Baurusuchids were badass. If you don’t know that, you have been missing out. Just look at how paleontologists Felipe Montefeltro, Hans Larsson and Max Langer described this extinct group of crocodiles by way of introducing a new species into the group earlier this month:
Baurusuchidae is a group of extinct Crocodyliformes with peculiar, dog-faced skulls, hypertrophied canines, and terrestrial, cursorial limb morphologies.
Granted, that’s a little technical — the conventions of the technical literature fail us when it comes to expressing excitement about fantastic organisms — but I think you can get the picture; terrestrial, dog-faced crocodiles well-adapted to running down prey and tearing into their victims with big, sharp teeth. Even better, these creatures lived alongside — and probably occasionally fed on — dinosaurs. They were not some early croc offshoot that filled the niche that would later be occupied by predatory dinosaurs. They were right there, competing with the carnivorous theropods of their day. Perfect nightmare fuel.
Montefeltro and co-authors have dubbed their new creature Pissarrachampsa sera. (Say that 10 times fast.) This predator lived during the latter half of the Cretaceous in what is now Brazil, and is represented by two skulls — one more complete than the other. The better skulls is quite impressive. The basic, underlying croc structure is there, but is modified into a shorter, stouter shape, and the size of the teeth differs throughout the jaws. This was a crocodile with big canine-like fangs at the front of the jaw (which makes me wonder if anyone will ever find a truly saber-toothed prehistoric crocodyliform). Maybe it’s just me, but I think such a creature deserves a starring role in a horror movie. I’ll be standing by to chat with any interested screenwriters.
Top Image: One of the skulls of Pissarrachampsa sera, as seen from the left side. From Montefeltro et al., 2011.
Bottom Image: Croc illustration by McGill Professor, Hans C.E. Larsson
Montefeltro, F., Larsson, H., & Langer, M. (2011). A New Baurusuchid (Crocodyliformes, Mesoeucrocodylia) from the Late Cretaceous of Brazil and the Phylogeny of Baurusuchidae PLoS ONE, 6 (7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021916