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Brazil unveils prehistoric sea crocodile

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Pointy-nosed crocodiles may have joined sharks as the dominant predators in the world's oceans some 62-million years ago, according to Brazilian scientists who last week unveiled one of the most complete skeletons found yet of the animals.

Scientists called it a new species, Guarinisuchus munizi, and said it sheds new light on the evolutionary history of modern crocodiles.

The fossil includes a skull, jaw bone and vertebrae, making it one of the most complete examples of marine crocodylomorphs collected so far in South America, said Alexander Kellner of the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Guarinisuchus appears to be closely related to marine crocodylomorphs found in Africa, which supports the hypothesis that the group originated in Africa and migrated to South America before spreading into the waters off the North American coast, Kellner said.

The find also suggests that marine crocodylomorphs replaced marine lizards during the early Paleocene era, about 65-million years ago — the same time marine lizards became extinct.

Brazil unveils prehistoric sea crocodile 03/29/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 10:52am]
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