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A plant-eating crocodyliform reptile from the Cretaceous of China


WITH few exceptions, tooth shape among crocodyliform reptiles (Crocodylia of traditional use) is rather uniform1. We report here on the presence of multicuspid molariform teeth in a remarkable new crocodyliform from the Lower Cretaceous of China, which may represent the first known herbivorous member of that group. The overall structure of these teeth is very similar to that of the postcanine teeth of tritylodontid synapsids and represents a particularly striking example of convergent evolution. It indicates back-to-front (proal) motion of the mandible produced by the posterior pterygoid muscle during jaw closing, much as in the extant tuatara, Sphenodon2,3. Certain derived features indicate that the new Chinese crocodyliform is closely related to the Notosuchidae from the Cretaceous of Gondwana4. Its discovery thus casts further doubts on claims5 concerning an endemic Gondwanan tetrapod fauna during the Cretaceous.

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Wu, Xc., Sues, HD. & Sun, A. A plant-eating crocodyliform reptile from the Cretaceous of China. Nature 376, 678–680 (1995).

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