New Genus of Cretaceous Crocodile – Koumpiodontosuchus aprosdokiti

Living alongside Early Cretaceous dinosaurs such as Baryonyx and the giant herbivore Iguanodon was a small crocodile, which probably grew to no more than a metre in length.  It was probably very much at home in water, just like today’s Crocodilians but this button-toothed predator, specialised in catching Molluscs and Arthropods.  Scientists are aware of this newly described genus of ancient crocodile from the Isle of Wight, thanks to serendipity.  From time to time palaeontology gets helped out with an enormous slice of luck.

Two fossilised skull fragments found in the same location, but by different people and months apart turned out to belong to a single skull from a sixty centimetre long crocodile which is new to science.  When experts at the Dinosaur Isle Museum examined the specimens, they found, to their collective amazement that the two pieces fitted together perfectly.

Dr. Steve Sweetman has published a paper on the newest member of the crocodile lineage, in the scientific journal “Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.”  It has been named Koumpiodontosuchus aprosdokiti and the name means “unexpected button-toothed crocodile” and pronounced (and we suggest you take a run up with this one), Comp-pee-oh-dont-to-suk-us ap-pros-doe-kee-ti.

The first part of the skull fossil, most of the cranial elements with just the front portion of the snout missing was discovered by holiday maker Diane Trevarthen on a beach near Sandown in March 2011. She took her specimen to the local museum and it was identified as being a crocodile fossil, probably a fossil of the skull of a juvenile from a large crocodile species that had already been described. Three months later, Finley and Austin Nathan found the snout whilst out fossil hunting. When museum staff saw their fossil, somebody must have said snap! Diane was asked to visit the museum with her fossil again and the two pieces of the skull were united.

An Artist’s Reconstruction of Koumpiodontosuchus aprosdokiti

126 million year old "button-toothed" crocodile.

126 million year old “button-toothed” crocodile.

Picture Credit: Dr. Mark Witton

A wonderful illustration by the highly talented Dr. Witton, we think those dinosaurs in the background are a pair of Neovenators (N. salerii).

Dr. Sweetman had thought that the specimen represented an example of a Crocodilian known from Spain, Belgium and elsewhere in Europe called  Bernissartia , but when the fossils were cleaned it was noted that the bones at the back of the skull were very different and this led to a new genus being established.

Dr. Sweetman added:

“Both parts of this wonderful little skull are in good condition, which is most unusual when you consider that crashing waves usually batter and blunt the edges of fossils like this within days or even hours of them being washed onto the beach.  Both parts must therefore have been found very soon after they were released from the mud and debris originally laid down on a dinosaur-trampled river floodplain around 126 million years ago.  The sheer serendipity of this discovery is quite bizarre”.

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