Credit: Henry Tsai/University of Missouri
Shieldcroc has thick-skinned shield on its head and is the newest discovery of crocodile species.
A University of Missouri researcher has identified a new species of prehistoric crocodile. The extinct creature, nicknamed "Shieldcroc" due to a thick-skinned shield on its head, is an ancestor of today's crocodiles. Its discovery provides scientists with additional information about the evolution of crocodiles and how scientists can gain insight into ways to protect the species' environment and help prevent extinction. The discovery was published this week in the journal PLoS ONE.
"Aegisuchus witmeri or 'Shieldcroc' is the earliest ancestor of our modern crocodiles to be found in Africa," said Casey Holliday, co-researcher and assistant professor of anatomy in the MU School of Medicine. "Along with other discoveries, we are finding that crocodile ancestors are far more diverse than scientists previously realized."
Shieldcroc is the newest discovery of crocodile species dating to the Late Cretaceous period, approximately 95 million years ago. This period is part of the Mesozoic Era, which has been referred to as the "Age of the Dinosaurs;" however, numerous recent discoveries have led to some scientists calling the era the "Age of the Crocs," Holliday said.