A “missing link” in the crocodile genealogy has been detected from a Jurassic fossil tail in a museum located in Budapest, in Hungary. The 180-million-year-old fossil has contributed to scientists’ comprehension of how an ancient crocodile group ramified from the rest of its genealogy and evolved into dolphin-like crocodiles.
In the Jurassic age, when this marine predator haunted the oceans, there were only two species of crocodiles inhabiting the Earth.
One ancient crocodile species was a very common one during those times and was very similar to modern-day crocodiles. This species was presenting a sort of a bone-like armor which was protecting their whole body and was also presenting limbs suitable for terrestrial walking.
The second species of crocodile-like creatures were not presenting any kind of armor but, instead, they presented some kind of body fins and tail fins pretty much similar to the fins present in the majority of the modern-day marine mammals, which permit these creatures to easily swim underwater.
The Jurassic fossil tail led scientists to learn of the existence of a third ancient crocodile species of those times, a so-called “missing link”
The recently discovered species seems to represent a sort of a so-called “missing link”, a transition from the first species to the second one. Like its terrestrial relatives, the creature’s body is covered by a sort of an armor but, at the same time, it presents caudal fins which are representative for the ancient dolphin-like crocodiles.
“This fossil provides a unique insight into how crocodiles began to evolve into dolphin and killer whale forms more than 180 million years ago,” explained Dr. Mark Young, a renowned geoscientist from the University of Edinburgh, and one of the scientists who participated in the study.
This ancient crocodile has been nicknamed Magyarosuchus fitosi, making reference to Atilla Fitos, the collector who discovered the Jurassic fossil tail which turned out to be the “missing link” between the Jurassic terrestrial crocodile and dolphin-like crocodiles, a distant marine ancient crocodile.