WASHINGTON - Scientists have found the ancient fossil of a crocodile coated in armadillo-like body armor in Brazil, dating back to 90 million years.
According to a report in National Geographic News, dubbed Armadillosuchus arrudai, the newly described species of crocodile roamed the arid interior of Brazil about 90 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period.
It was 6.6 feet (2 meters) long, weighed about 265 pounds (120 kilograms), and had a relatively wide head with a narrow, toothy snout.
Body armor has never been “found in any other fossil or living crocodile species,” said Ismar de Souza Carvalho, a paleontologist at the Federal University in Rio de Janeiro.
“The strangeness did not stop there. This crocodyliform could chew like mammals do, like we do,” said Thiago Marinho, a paleontologist with the Federal University.
Most modern crocs simply use their powerful jaws to clamp down on their prey.
“But, the fossil crocodile could move its lower jaw forward and backward, using its teeth to tear into dried meat, roots, pine branches, and mollusks,” Marinho said.
Paleontologists found the creature in 2005 in the Bauru region of Sao Paolo state, an area thought to have been hot and dry about 90 million years ago, noted de Souza Carvalho.
“Rainfall was seasonal, with flash-flood rivers. This is also uncommon to the living crocodiles and alligators that generally live in permanent waters,” he said.
Armadillosuchus’ arms and hands were likely capable of digging into the soil like those of armadillos.
“This could be a strategy to avoid dehydration in the arid environment-excavating holes in the soil-or to avoid other large crocodyliforms of that time,” de Souza Carvalho said. (ANI)