Ancient Giant ‘Ghost’ Lizard Discovered In Madagascar

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A huge creature said to be like a crocodile has been discovered in Madagascar by scientists and the creature has teeth that are sized similar to a T-Rex and were probably used for the crunching of bones. The discovery by the scientists has helped to fill gaps in the lineage of the crocodilian ghost lineage spanning 74 million years.

Scientists Name Creature Razanandrongobe Sakalavae

Researchers first came across fossils of the giant predator on Madagascar about a decade ago. When they did the scientists thought that they had found a predator that was huge which dated back to the Jurassic period and they gave it the name of Razanandrongobe Sakalavae. This meant giant lizard ancestor from the region of Sakalava.

While the scientists knew that they had come across a predatory species that was new and which was ancient, just where it fell in among the evolutionary tree of life had not been clear at the time. It did have many of the features of the crocodylomorphs, these were a group that included crocodilians and relatives that were extinct, along with theropods, and this was a group of dinosaurs belonging to the T-Rex family.

Crocodylomorphs Lived On Earth During Cretaceous Period

Scientists from Italy and France have now re-examined the fossils and five fragments of the cranium that had been discovered at the site, and they are tentatively saying that they come from the same taxon. The findings have been published in a journal, and they have placed the fossils as coming from the suborder Notosuchia. The scientists said that the crocodylomorphs might have been on Earth in the Cretaceous period and the scientists have come across fossils from South America, Europe, Africa and Asia too.

Scientists had thought that evolutionary lineage of Notosuchia had begun far earlier, possibly in the Middle Jurassic times and this would have been between 174 to 163 million years ago. However as there was no evidence of any fossils found, it had become to be known as ghost lineage.

Fossils Of Creature Tell Scientists It Was Oldest And Largest Of Suborder

Cristiano Del Sasso working for the Natural History Museum in Milan said that colleagues had placed R. Sakalavae among the Notosuchia family and they have said that it is possibly the largest and the oldest of the suborder to have ever been found. They went on to say that it predates other Notosuchia species by around 42 million years.

The scientists have been a bit anxious regarding the estimation of the size of the creature thanks to the fact that fossil evidence has been somewhat limited. However, they did say that more than likely it would have been even bigger than Sarcosuchus Imperator, a creature that they believe could reach up to as much as 39 feet in length, or with the Purussaurus brasilensis, which grew to a size of around 34 feet in length.

In a statement, Dal Sasso said that like these along with other huge crocs that come from the Cretaceous period, Razana would be able to go up against and win even the theropod dinosaurs when it came to being at the top of the food chain. The team believes by looking at the teeth of R. Sakalavae that the creature had fed on hard tissues, more probably bone, and it would possibly have been one of the top land predators at the time in that region. This is a region where Madagascar starts to separate from Gondwana, the supercontinent.

Simone Maganco, the co-author of the study, said that during the period the geographic position when Madagascar separated from landmasses would suggest strongly that there was an endemic lineage. At the same time, they suggested that it also shows that possibly Notosuchia may have originally come from Southern Gondwana.

In their conclusion, the scientists said that their analysis has shown that R. Sakalavae is a species that is valid and well-distinct from any other that they know about in the Notosuchia family. They went on to say that it helps to fill in the gap in the evolution of the group, which has a long ghost lineage in the Jurassic period. It also goes to show that there was a dramatic and unexpected increase in size during the early history of that group.

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