Jeanna Bryner via Live Science:
A 9-foot-tall beast with bladelike teeth once stalked the warm and wet environs of what is now North Carolina some 230 million years ago, before dinosaurs came onto the scene there, scientists have found.
Now called Carnufex carolinensis, the crocodile ancestor likely walked on its hind legs, preying on armored reptiles and early mammal relatives in its ecosystem, the researchers say.
They named it Carnufex, meaning “butcher” in Latin, because of its long skull, which resembles a knife, and its bladelike teeth, which it likely used to slice flesh off the bones of prey, said lead study author Lindsay Zanno, of NC State University and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. “‘Butcher’ seemed a very appropriate way to get that into the minds of people,” Zanno told Live Science in an interview.
The large creature reveals not only one of the earliest crocodylomorphs, a group that includes today’s crocodiles and their close relatives, but also highlights the diversity of top predators of the time. “People don’t think about how many different predators were around in the Triassic, and that crocs really ruled before dinosaurs,” Zanno said. [Photos: Ancient Crocodile Relatives Roamed the Amazon]
Zanno and her colleagues discovered parts of the skull, spine and arm bone of the creature while digging in the Pekin Formation in Chatham County, North Carolina. Sediments there were deposited 231 million years ago during what is called the late Triassic Period, when the area was still a part of the supercontinent Pangaea and was located near Earth’s equator.
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