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Cat-Sized Crocodile Believed To Roam Texas 115 Million Years Ago

Witte Museum
The main fossils of Tarsomordeo. From left to right: Lower jaw, left humerus, right femur, neck and dorsal vertebrae, osteoderms (armor), and claws.

A curator at the Witte Museum recently published a description of a cat-sized crocodile that lived only in Texas 115 million years ago.  

Fossils of the crocodile named "ankle biter" in Greek or Tarsomordeo were originally found around Proctor Lake in Comanche County in north central Texas, said Witte officials.

During its life time the climate there was semi-arid floodplain and temperatures were much warmer, according to a news release from the museum.

Curator Thomas Adams said its legs were not like those of crocodiles today.

Curator Thomas Adams
Credit Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
Curator Thomas Adams

"The limbs on this little crocodile show that it kept its legs under its body like we do, like mammals, like birds do, which means that it had long limbs and was a terrestrial animal. It lived on land,” he said.

Adams said the fossils of ankle biter were found near the remains of ancient dinosaur and crocodile nesting sites, which means it may have lunched on both.

The doctor said the ankle-biter’s presence on land may be evidence of an ecological shift back to terrestrial due to environmental factors.

He said researchers are also learning from the fossil records of crocodiles that they may have been more diverse than previously thought.

Adam’s description appears in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology and said if you love ancient fossils and bones, the Witte Museum is a great place to visit this summer.

"We are exhibiting animals whose fossils have been found here in Texas, so dinosaurs, crocodiles, Pterosaurs, you name it,” Adams said.

He said dinosaurs on display in the Naylor Family Dinosaur Gallery share a common ancestor with crocodiles.

The Witte Museum was founded in 1926 and includes science, nature and cultural exhibits.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.