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Fossils of oddball crocodile relative found in Texas suburb

Some 96 million years ago, the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, were part of a lush river delta that was home to turtles, dinosaurs, fish—and a bizarre creature that looked like a crocodile but may have eaten like an opossum. The newfound animal, Scolomastax sahlsteini, is a crocodyliform, an extinct, distant cousin of today’s crocodiles and…

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Fossils of oddball crocodile relative found in Texas suburb

Michael Greshko

Some 96 million years ago, the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, were part of a lush river delta that was home to turtles, dinosaurs, fish—and a bizarre creature that looked like a crocodile but may have eaten like an opossum.

The newfound animal, Scolomastax sahlsteini, is a crocodyliform, an extinct, distant cousin of today’s crocodiles and alligators. It grew about three to six feet long, and its right lower jaw implies that it had fewer teeth than related crocodiles. Its teeth also seem to have come in several different shapes. (Find out about another crocodyliform that munched on small dinosaurs.)

These traits are consistent with living animals that crunch on hard foods or eat a varied diet, which suggests that Scolomastax may well have been omnivorous. By contrast, modern crocodiles are carnivores and often specialize in ambushing prey near the water’s edge.

Related: Crocodiles have the world’s strongest bite—see it in action

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