The Langenberg Quarry in Germany has proven to be a rich source of marine-related fossils, including that of the recently discovered, small, crocodile-like atoposaurid species. The atoposaurid family comprises small-sized crocodiles with large eyes and short snouts that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous and belong to the evolutionary lineage of modern crocodiles.
The fossilized remains of this crocodile ancestor were exceptionally well-preserved but were still partly in sediment, making it difficult to examine the fossils fully. Previous analysis of this crocodile assigned it to the Theriosuchus genus. To study this atopasaurid in more detail, Daniela Schwarz from the Museum fuer Naturkunde Berlin at the Leibniz Institute for Evolutionary and Biodiversity Research, Germany, and her colleagues did a 3-D reconstruction of one of the fossil skulls based on micro-computed tomography.
The researchers concluded that the atoposaurid they studied is a new species, which they call Knoetschkesuchus langenbergensis. This conclusion is based on unique features of the skull, such as openings in the jawbone and in front of the eye, as well as of tooth morphology. The latter may have reflected dietary specialization, and diversity of tooth morphology is thought to have been a driver of atoposaurid evolution during the Jurassic.
According to Schwarz, “Knoetschkesuchus preserves — for the first time in this group — two skulls in 3-D, allowing us detailed anatomical studies via micro-CT images. Our research is part of the Europasaurus-Project which studies the remains of a unique Jurassic island ecosystem in northern Germany.”
Citation: Schwarz D, Raddatz M, Wings O (2017) Knoetschkesuchus langenbergensis gen. nov. sp. nov., a new atoposaurid crocodyliform from the Upper Jurassic Langenberg Quarry (Lower Saxony, northwestern Germany), and its relationships to Theriosuchus. PLoS ONE 12(2): e0160617. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0160617
Image Credit: Schwarz et al (2017)