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Fossils of Giant Phytosaur Unearthed in India

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Paleontologists at the Indian Institute of Technology have described a surprising new genus and species of crocodile-like reptile from fossils found in India.

Life reconstruction of a phytosaur species called Protome batalaria. Image credit: Smokeybjb / CC BY-SA 3.0.

Colossosuchus techniensis roamed our planet during the Upper Triassic epoch, between 235 and 208 million years ago.

The ancient animal was a type of phytosaur (family Phytosauridae), an extinct group of large, mostly semiaquatic crocodile-like reptiles.

“Phylogenetic analysis nests Colossosuchus techniensis and other undescribed specimens from India within Mystriosuchinae,” said Indian Institute of Technology paleontologists Debajit Datta and Sanghamitra Ray.

“These form a distinct clade and represent the earliest record of endemism among Gondwanan phytosaurs.”

“This clade is recovered as sister species to (Volcanosuchus + Rutiodon) + Leptosuchomorpha, where the depressed supratemporal fenestra first appeared in the phytosaur lineage, a feature previously used to diagnose the derived leptosuchomorphs.”

Colossosuchus techniensis. Image credit: Debajit Datta & Sanghamitra Ray, doi: 10.1002/spp2.1476.

The fossilized remains of Colossosuchus techniensis were found in the Tiki Formation, located within the Rewa Gondwana Basin of India.

The bonebed yielded 27 skull and jaw specimens and approximately 339 postcranial remains corresponding to a minimum of 21 individual animals, primarily juveniles and subadults.

“The total body length of the largest individual recovered from the bonebed is estimated to be more than 8 m (26 feet), suggesting that Colossosuchus techniensis is one of the largest phytosaurs known,” the researchers said.

In addition to Colossosuchus techniensis, at least two more phytosaur species lived at the same time in different parts of India.

“Early-diverging phytosaur diversification may have coincided with the final stages of the Carnian Pluvial Event (CPE) with their possible migratory routes along the circum-Tethyan coastline,” the scientists said.

“The lineage continued to evolve mostly through endemic radiations and experienced an extinction event during the Early Norian age of the Triassic period, which marked the disappearance of most of the non-leptosuchomorph species.”

“This is attributed to post-CPE aridification, although more study is required.”

The discovery is described in a paper published in the January/February 2023 issue of the journal Papers in Palaentology.


Debajit Datta & Sanghamitra Ray. 2023. A giant phytosaur (Diapsida, Archosauria) from the Upper Triassic of India with new insights on phytosaur migration, endemism and extinction. Papers in Palaentology 9 (1): e1476; doi: 10.1002/spp2.1476

Source : Breaking Science News

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