RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - A fossil of a new species of prehistoric crocodile found in Brazil and presented here Wednesday has led scientists to believe the reptile benefited from the extinction of dinosaurs to migrate from across the Atlantic.
Guarinisuchus munizi -- the "warrior of the seas," as the crocodile has been dubbed -- is believed to have had its origins in Africa some 200 million years ago.
But the remains of a jaw, skull and vertebra discovered in Palaeocene deposits of northeastern Brazil suggests the species set off for new territory 62 million years ago, according to researchers.
"They left the African continent and are believed to have occupied zones in South America, and later regions in North America," paleontologist Maria Somalia Viana told a media conference in Rio de Janeiro.
She added that, back then, "Africa and the northeast point of Brazil were much closer than today."
The reptile, which grew to around three meters (10 feet) and was perfectly adapted to living in the ocean, apparently took advantage of the extinction of bigger marine lizards called mosasaurs to dominate the waters, another paleontologist, Alexander Kellner, said.
The Guarinisuchus munizi became "the main predators, together with sharks, in shallow marine Palaeocene environments" the researchers from the federal universities of Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro theorized in their paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
They said further study and fossil correlation were needed to corroborate the hypothesis.
The fossil was the most complete of the species ever found in Latin America.-source
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