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It might look like the skull of an ancient mammal, but these 100-million-year-old fossilized remains, found in Tanzania, belong to a member of the
crocodile family. As this animation shows, the teeth of Pakasuchus resemble those of a warm-blooded carnivore, with protruding canines (pink),
sharp premolars (yellow), and flat molars (blue). All allowed the critter to bite, rip, and chew its food. Modern croc teeth, in contrast, are
uniformly cone-shaped for seizing and tearing prey. Based on the rest of its anatomy, which includes four long, straight limbs, scientists have
concluded that the animal roamed across the African savanna, feeding on large insects such as dragonflies and possibly newly hatched dinosaurs. This
means, the team will report tomorrow in Nature, that Pakasuchus
probably filled an ecological niche in the southern hemisphere that mammal ancestors were exploiting in the north. As a result, Pakasuchus
could—like other ancient crocs discovered recently in Africa--find ways to live
comfortably out of water.
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