Letters to Nature

Nature 405, 941-944 (22 June 2000) | doi:10.1038/35016061; Received 8 February 2000; Accepted 13 April 2000

A pug-nosed crocodyliform from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar

Gregory A. Buckley1, Christopher A. Brochu2, David W. Krause3 & Diego Pol4

  1. Evelyn T. Stone University College, Roosevelt University, Chicago, Illinois 60605 , USA
  2. Department of Geology, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois 60605 , USA
  3. Department of Anatomical Sciences, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York 11794, USA
  4. Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York 10024, USA

Correspondence to: Gregory A. Buckley1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to G.A.B.

Although the image of crocodyliforms as 'unchanged living fossils' is naive, several morphological features of the group are thought to have varied only within narrow limits during the course of evolution1. These include an elongate snout with an array of conical teeth, a dorsoventrally flattened skull and a posteriorly positioned jaw articulation, which provides a powerful bite force. Here we report an exquisitely preserved specimen of a new taxon from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar that deviates profoundly from this Bauplan, possessing an extremely blunt snout, a tall, rounded skull, an anteriorly shifted jaw joint and clove-shaped, multicusped teeth reminiscent of those of some ornithischian dinosaurs. This last feature implies that the diet of the new taxon may have been predominantly if not exclusively herbivorous. A close relationship with notosuchid crocodyliforms, particularly Uruguaysuchus (Late Cretaceous, Uruguay)2 is suggested by several shared derived features; this supports a biogeographical hypothesis that Madagascar and South America were linked during the Late Cretaceous3 .