In a new study appearing Sept. 15 in the journal Palaeontology, University of Florida researchers describe a new 20-foot extinct species discovered in the same Colombian coal mine with Titanoboa, the world's largest snake. The findings help scientists better understand the diversity of animals that occupied the oldest known rainforest ecosystem, which had higher temperatures than today, and could be useful for understanding the impacts of a warmer climate in the future.
The 60-million-year-old freshwater relative to modern crocodiles is the first known land animal from the Paleocene New World tropics specialized for eating fish, meaning it competed with Titanoboa for food. But the giant snake could have consumed its competition, too, researchers say.
"The younger individuals were definitely not safe from Titanoboa, but the biggest of these species would have been a bit much for the 42-foot snake to handle," said lead author Alex Hastings, a graduate student at the Florida Museum of Natural History and UF's department of geological sciences.
The new species is a dyrosaurid, commonly believed to be primarily ocean-dwelling, coastal reptiles. The new adult specimens challenge previous theories the animals only would have entered freshwater environments as babies before returning to sea.
Study names new ancient crocodile relative from the land of Titanoboa