Featured Image Credit: Marton Szabo
By: Kira Krall
A fossil discovered in 1996 recently got new life in the paleontology world. After spending 20 years in the Budapest museum, the 180 million-year-old fossil was finally dusted off and declared a long-awaited link in the crocodilian evolutionary tree.
Magyarosuchus fitosi was named after Attila Fitos, the discoverer of the fragmented skeleton. This fossil joins other crocodilian ancestors from the Jurassic period. Early crocodilians looked a lot like their descendants we see today. Some traded in bony skin plates for a dolphin-like tail, while others lived the vegetarian life. Magyarosuchus fitosi bridges the gap between the two major Jurassic groups. It decided that more was more and kept the bony plates while sporting the dolphin tail.
Crocodilians were part of a large group of animals known as archosaurs. This reptilian group also boasted members like non-avian dinosaurs and ancestors of our modern birds. The crocodiles were the heavy hitters that developed much stronger jaws than their archosaur relatives.
The evolutionary journey to what we know today ended about 65 million years ago. There’s been some modification over the millennia, but nothing quite like fitosi has been seen since.