Vicious Carnivore of the Mid to Late Triassic – Batrachotomus

One of the most formidable predators roaming around the land mass that was to become Europe in the Mid to Late Triassic was the mighty Batrachotomus.  With a strong set of jaws, lined with backward, curved teeth which were serrated this prehistoric beast was over six metres in length, this makes the extinct Batrachotomus about the size of the modern, extant Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus).

This Triassic carnivorous reptile was a member of the Archosaurs, the same group of reptiles as the Dinosaurs, but it was not a member of the Dinosauria.  Instead, Batrachotomus has been assigned to the Prestosuchidae Order, although palaeontologists debate the exact taxonomic relationship between the Prestosuchidae and the Rauisuchidae Order.  However, most scientists ascribe the fossils of Batrachotomus (B. kupferzellensis) to the family known as Rauisuchia.  What is not debated is that the majority of these animals were highly evolved, efficient terrestrial predators with a more efficient gait than modern-day crocodiles.

A Scale Drawing of Batrachotomus

Vicious Triassic Apex Predator

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Batrachotomus and its close relatives such as Prestosuchus and Saurosuchus had special hip and shoulder joints that enabled their limbs to be positioned directly under their bodies.  This was a much more efficient method of walking around compared to other reptiles which had their limbs to the side of their bodies and walked with a sprawling gait.  The back legs of Batrachotomus were longer than the front and although it probably spent most of its time walking on all fours, if it needed a sudden turn of speed, or to lunge at prey it was capable of standing on it’s back legs, being balanced by its long, muscular tail.  These types of animals rivalled the first, large Theropod dinosaurs for the position of apex predators in the Mid Triassic.  Fossils of animals ascribed to the Rauischia family have been found in Germany, other parts of Europe, Brazil, North America and Asia.

A fully grown, adult Batrachotomus is estimated to have weighed more than one metric tonne.  It would have preyed on other reptiles such as Aetosaurs (eagle lizards), Pterosaurs, and Dinosaurs.  Scientists are still debating just how closely related Batrachotomus was to the group of reptiles known as the Order Dinosauria, it did belong to the same group of reptiles – the Archosaurs, but just how closely related it was to the ancestors of the dinosaurs is still hotly debated.  The fossil record for predators in the Mid to Late Triassic is particularly poor.  Indeed, with relatively few fossils being preserved from this period, the ancestry of the Dinosauria and their development is still unclear.

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