66 million years ago, the Pyrenees were a tropical plain, an area of brackish wetlands plagued with very diverse fauna, from dinosaurs to turtles, fish, frogs and lizards. From today, we know that there was someone else: a crocodile of the species Ogresuchus furatus.
The fossil, which belongs to a new species of the sebecidae family, was discovered in early June 2013 but the night before its extraction, an unknown person stole the skeleton remains from the Cretaceous Viewpoint (Coll de Nargó, Alt Urgell).
Finally, after several weeks of searching, the Historical Heritage Unit of the Mossos d’Esquadra located the looter and seized the fossil, which was in a rather poor state of preservation. Precisely in memory of that journey, the fossil was baptized ‘Ogresuchus furatus’, which means “the crocodile-ogre that was stolen.”
The details of the discovery, directed by the Institut Catalá de Paleontología Miquel Crusafont (ICP) and made in collaboration with the Conca Dellà Museum, the University of Coruña and the University of Barcelona, are published today in the journal Scientific Reports.
The partial skeleton has made it possible to determine that the new species is part of the sebecidae family, a group of terrestrial crocodiles abundant between the Paleocene and the Middle Miocene, between 66 and 15 million years ago. According to research, the fossil is 71.5 million years old and it is the oldest specimen discovered.
“Ogresuchus is 10 million years older than any other sebaceous known to date, so the finding forces us to redefine evolutionary history of this family “, explains the paleontologist of the ICP and director of the investigation, Albert G. Sellés.
“Baby dinosaurs were probably not their main source of food, but they would have been easy prey for a crocodile of these characteristics that would not have wasted the opportunity to prey on them,” says Sellés. Article describes Ogresuchus as a fairly small animal, less than a meter long, with serrated and curved teeth and graceful legs, aspects that suggest that it must have been an active and very agile predator, capable of hunting small prey.
Dinosaurs in the Pyrenees they are the last to live in Europe before their extinction worldwide. For more than 10 years, researchers from the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont have organized excavation campaigns and their findings have led to hundreds of scientific publications on the faunas of the Pyrenees during the Mesozoic.