Species: Kayentasuchus walkeri (Kah-yen-tah-soo-kus wah-keh-rye)
What it means: Kayenta crocodile
Where I live: Arizona in the U.S.A.- The Kayenta formation
When to find me: The Early Jurassic period, about 196 million years ago.
My favorite food: Small animals, fish, or the occasional large insect. I’m a carnivore.
My neighborhood: The Kayenta formation used to be a tropical floodplain, a bit like African savannah today- but no grass or flowers. Ferns cover the open plains, dotted with islands of spiky cycad groves. Rivers crisscross the land with lush tree ferns, ginkgo trees, and conifers. Every year during the wet season the plains turn into a flooded marsh, but the hottest months bring no rain, and the rivers shrink until the plains are almost as dry as the great desert that lies to the north.
A few of my neighbors: I’m surrounded by big and scary dinosaurs like Dilophosaurus, Coelophysis, and Kayentavenator, so I stay out of their way. Sarahsaurus (an early sauropod) and Scelidosaurus (armored dinosaur) are plant eaters, but also pretty tough neighbors. Little Scutellosaurus (small armored dinosaur) is quite a bit more friendly, and if I’m lucky might even join me for lunch. Frogs, turtles, and fellow crocodile cousins stay by the river, but I don’t hang out there much. I may be related to crocs, but I like dry land better. I’ll often see a long-tailed pterosaur flying overhead for insects like beetles, dragonflies, an ancient cousin of the moth, and something called a snakefly.
Fun Fact: I might look a skinny crocodile, but I’m not a crocodile at all! I’m a crocodile-ish relative called a Sphenosuchian (Ss-fee-no-soo-key-an).
Fossil Finds: A nearly complete but fragmentary skeleton, including an incomplete skull with articulated jaw hinge (mandibular rami), articulated torso, articulated right leg, and a few other postcranial bones. Articulated means the bones fit where they should be, instead of scattered everywhere. Postcranial bones are all the bones behind the head.
James M. Clark, Hans-Dieter Sues, Two new basal crocodylomorph archosaurs from the Lower Jurassic and the monophyly of the Sphenosuchia, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, Volume 136, Issue 1, September 2002, Pages 77–95, https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1096-3642.2002.00026.x