News from the Cretaceous

Over the past decade, Africa has been done amazing discoveries in paleontology. Black continent has become a Mecca for scientists. In 1907 in Tanzania discovered a huge "graveyard of dinosaurs," and since then the hunt for fossils in Africa was set, so to speak, in a big way. More recently, in the mountains on the edge of the Sahara and Madagascar have been found in the world's largest accumulations of dinosaur.

One of the most successful fossil hunters said Paul Sereno. He is credited with discovery of the remains and afrovenatora karharodontozavrov, but he made a number of other important discoveries. Today, thanks to the cinema all know that the biggest and most predatory dinosaur Tyrannosaurus considered. In fact, the largest and most predatory — though less well known — was a huge Allosaurus, who dwelt in North Africa EARLY period. And it was called karharodontozavrom, which literally means "akulozuby lizard."

His remains were first discovered in the 20's of the XX century — then found fragments of the skull and some other bones. They were transported to one of the museums in the south of Germany, but in 1944, the museum building was seriously damaged by Allied air bombing — and the bones were destroyed. After that, for half a century karharodontozavra remains on the list of other paleontological lost relics.

This was the case until 1996. Just as in the Atlas Mountains of paleontological expedition launched the University of Chicago led by Paul Sereno. The excavations in one of the weathered limestone ridges on the surface of scientists extracted a skull length of 1.6 m was thus rediscovered giant lizard, and in fact this individual was even bigger than that, the remains of which were lost during the Second World War.

For Paul Sereno it was the second great success. Its first discovery in Africa, he did in 1993 — in Nigeria, when he found the remains of African Allosaurus, whom he called afrovenatorom, ie "African hunter". This predator reached 9 meters long, weighed more than 2 tons.

At the beginning of XX century German naturalist Eberhard Fraas took a trip to Tanzania — known as Tanganyika — in order to check the rumors of strange bones, reportedly found in a place called "Tendaguru Hill." On arriving at the appointed place fraas saw that there really is a big set of remains of prehistoric animals. From 1909 to 1913 the German paleontologists have made four campaign in Tendaguru Hill and collected more than 100 tons of fossils. All these are carefully packed and transported to the coast, and from there by ship — to Europe. In this truly unique collection contained the remains of a variety of plant, including Stegosaurus, Diplodocus and gipsilofodonov. Tendagurskogo Brachiosaurus skeleton — the main exhibit of the Berlin museum Humboldt.

ANCIENT Crocodiles

Of the known predatory reptiles survived to the present day, in the distant past crocodiles compete their closest relatives — dinosaurs — and even hunted them. Group of paleontologists led by Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago have found skeletons and individual bones crocodiles six different new species found in the Cretaceous period in Morocco and Niger.

Apparently, these crocodiles are involved in a number of ecological niches, and their diversity was related to food specialization. In connection with this fact five new types of crocodile journalists came up funny nicknames, such as KrokoBlin (PancakeCroc) and KrokoVepr (BoarCroc), describing the appearance and lifestyle of ancient animals.

The smallest of the found crocodiles lived in the late Early Cretaceous, ie 100-120 million years ago. This creature had a length less than a meter. He was given the nickname KrokoUtka (DuckCroc), although, of course, ducks or duckbilled dinosaur he did not like. A distinctive feature of this predator was pointed and somewhat elevated nose — put the skull on which the nostrils. Thus he's skull was quite broad. Apparently, the "big nose" in search of prey crocodile has used the sense of smell. He hunted, most likely on small reptiles and amphibians, as well as small fish. The back was covered with crocodile bony plates that make up the armor, the legs were well developed.

Another crocodile, nicknamed KrokoPes (DogCroc), found in Tanzania, was also small, length 50 cm, length of the skull is only about 10 cm These "kids" lived and hunted in packs, some teeth in their jaws resembled great doggystyle and besides, they had long legs and well ran. As with most of their relatives, back and tail were covered with armor of bony plates. Paleontologists have even compared KrokoPsa structure with the structure of the Australian saltwater crocodile that can run virtually gallop. Based on the structure of the legs and spine, he could not just run, but jumping for prey.

Singularity KrokoPsa was in the fact that he had the teeth of different shapes, but such that they could chew food. Chewing — so familiar to us, and mammals, the process for most reptiles completely unavailable. All modern reptiles, including crocodiles, can only tear pieces of food, at least a few times Primin their teeth. Also did not know how to chew and many dinosaurs, only appeared in the Cretaceous herbivorous hadrosaurs, who could chew the stems and leaves of plants. But chewing predatory reptile, and even from a group of crocodiles — is generally a unique case.

The most impressive representative crocodile tribe discovered in Africa, is karpozuhus Sahara — a six-meter predator with huge teeth. He received the nickname KrokoVepr (VoagSgos) for huge tusks sticking out of the jaws. Canine teeth of the lower jaw is so huge that towered over the top, which, moreover, had a special recess for them. Moreover, unlike mammals, karpozuhusa on each jaw a few pairs of tusks. This dinosaur probably hunted dinosaurs because other suitable size production was around. Based on the structure of the limbs, he was running well and is likely to use race to score on their prey. In the video, posted on National Geographic News, karpozuhus shown hunting herbivorous sauropods. It is possible that this crocodile used his head as a battering ram to knock the victim to the ground and only then grab his neck with his terrible teeth.

Finally, the crocodile — laganozuhus inhabiting the Niger and Morocco, with a wide jaw about a meter long, for which christened KrokoBlinom (PancakeCroc). Laganozuhus loved fishing. He was lying in the water or in shallow water, opening a wide, flat mouth, and when she swam careless fish abruptly slammed jaw. Interestingly, in the alveoli of the jaws of the crocodile paleontologists have found new teeth, which replaces the fallen.

Paleontologists have not only studied the bones of ancient crocodiles, but also did a CT scan preserved skulls, getting images of the brain cavities extinct carnivores and compares them with those of modern crocodiles cavities will learn more about their behavior and lifestyle. However, scientists have long understood that Africa in the Cretaceous period was the kingdom of reptiles, including crocodiles of various sizes and shapes, has held a variety of ecological niches.

Irina Strekalova

Category: Mystery stories

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