Fossil Friday: Fruitachampsa

Fruitachampsa, a small croc cousin trying very hard to be a cat instead of a croc. It doesn't like water much.

Species: Fruitachampsa callisoni (fruit-ah-champ-sah cah-lih-son-eye)

What it means: Crocodile from Fruita

Other Species: none

Where I live: Western U.S.A.- The Morrison Formation

When to find me: The Late Jurassic period, about 155 million years ago.

My favorite food: Meat! I’m a carnivore.

Fruitachampsa is about the size of a cat.
The skull of Fruitachampsa is 9 centimeters long and can fit in the palm of my hand.

My neighborhood: The Morrison Formation covers a huge expanse of land with a variety of different habitats teaming with life. Most of it was very much like the Serengeti of modern day Africa, only with prairies of drought-tolerant ferns and cycad relatives instead of grass. Dense woodlands of tall conifers like the modern araucaria, ginkgoes, and tree ferns would only lie in places of plentiful water such as the few permanent rivers. Other areas had far more sparse and shrubbier vegetation like the open woodlands of acacia trees in the Serengetti.

Life in this environment would’ve adapted to long months of harsh drought, followed by a few months of monsoon that flooded the rivers. Many of the larger herbivores may have migrated like the herds in Africa do today, while most carnivores stayed behind to feast on the dead and dying, or else become opportunistic hunters of less traditional diets for lean times, such as fish or turtles in the rivers.

A few of my neighbors: First let me share the plant-eating giants…

  • Long-necked sauropods like Brachiosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, Barosaurus, Apatosaurus, Suuwassea, Supersaurus, Haplocanthosaurus, and Dystrophaeus.
  • Armored dinosaurs like Stegosaurus, Hesperosaurus, Mymoorapelta, and Gargoyleosaurus.
  • Two-legged ornithopods like Dryosaurus, Camptosaurus, and Nanosaurus

There are also giant, meat-eating monsters to worry about, including dinosaurs like Torvosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Saurophaganax, Marshosaurus, Stokesosaurus, Ornitholestes, Coelurus, Tanycolagreus, Elaphrosaurus, and Koparion.

Not to mention the countless lizards, crocodile relatives on land and water, mammals, frogs, turtles, fish, and all the pterosaurs flying in the sky!

Fun Facts:

  • Fruitachampsa gets its name from Fruita, Colorado (the nearest town from the the rocks where it was found) + champsi (Greek for crocodile). The name for the type species is in honor of George Callison, who led the expedition and was deeply involved in the discovery and recovery of the fossils.
  • Fruitachampsa was not a dinosaur or crocodile, but a crocodile cousin known as a shartegosuchid. These critters are most often very small, land-loving croc-relatives, and Fruitachampsa was actually one of the largest of them!
  • It is the only member of its group known to live in North America. All others of its kind are known from Asia.

Fossil Finds: A few mostly complete skulls, one of them crushed, and fragmentary remains of the rest of the skeleton. The holotype (fossils used to determine which bones belong to Fruitachampsa) is only a skull the the few articulated vertebrae directly attached to it. There were other fossils like legs and ribs in the same block of rock, but may be from another individual, so are not assigned to holotype specimen.

References:

JAMES M. CLARK, A new shartegosuchid crocodyliform from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of western Colorado, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, Volume 163, Issue suppl_1, December 2011, Pages S152–S172, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1096-3642.2011.00719.x

Foster, John. Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World. Indiana University Press, 2007

“Fruitachampsa.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruitachampsa

13 thoughts on “Fossil Friday: Fruitachampsa

  1. Do you think that Fruitachampsa could be raised in a 40 gallon aquarium if I had one? You say it is a carnivore. Could you probably feed it mice, small rats and pinkies like a ball python? Do you think that there are any other species that I could keep in the same tank that it would not be aggressive towards? (Of course, most of this would be conjecture.)

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    1. Feeding it a variety of mice and possibly also a convenient pellet feed would be good, very much like monitor lizards, skinks, and domestic crocodilians. A 40 gallon terrarium would be too small though.

      Blue-tongued skinks are a bit smaller than Fruitachampsa, about 20 inches long, and yet they require a minimum of a 40 gallon tank for their enclosure. 50 gallon tanks are often recommended, so I’d imagine Fruitachampsa would need an even bigger tank.

      I would not recommend keeping it in the same enclosure as others. As cute as it might be to have Skippy the Hoplosuchus be best buddies with fruitachampsa, the much larger crocodilian would only see its pint-sized cousin as lunch, and male Fruitachampsa are territorial. Females do ok so long as there are no eggs involved. If you have the space, you can pair Fruitachampsa with certain tortoises that will not be bothered. 🙂

      This would be an excellent question for Pete. If I get enough of these we could set up a mail bag for Pete to answer. 😀

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      1. OK, got it. 50 gallons minimum tank size – probably 100 would be better. Feed mice and small rats and the best companion would be a tortoise. Did they have tortoises during the Jurassic Period?

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      2. OK, got it. 50 gallons minimum tank size – maybe 100 would be better. Feed it mice and small rats and best companion would be a tortoise. Hopefully, tortoises were not aggressive during the Jurassic Period! 🙂

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        1. Unfortunately I just looked in my book, and it says that there are no tortoises known from the Morrison Formation. 😦 Perhaps a turtle then, but since Fruitachampsa is a more land-loving, cursorial crocodilian I don’t think it would pair well with a water-loving turtle. I’ll have to look into what other animals in the Morrison may pair well with it. 🙂

          100 gallons sounds like a good size tank though!

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          1. Here is a suggestion for future topics. What critters can we raise as pets in a 100 gallon tank and what companions are they compatible with? A 250 gallon tank? A 500 gallon tank? etc.

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            1. I love lots of plans for Pete’s Paleo Petshop. I could spend a lifetime in this world and still not get it all done! Care guides for certain animals or groups are definitely on that very long list. 😀 Very much like the pet care manuals you see in pet stores.

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  2. Fruitachampsa is so cool! I like the colors you chose. I think I’ve seen pictures of it, but I never really knew what it was until now. It has such a unique silhouette! Croc-cousins are the best. 😛

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    1. Hi Brownie, thank you very much! I had fun with the colors on this one. They risked turning a little muddy at one point, but I saved it (I was pretending to paint with real watercolor, so didn’t allow myself any undoes 😀 ). Fruitachampsa has actually appeared here at the shop before, in Dippy’s mini comic book. Its croc-cousin relatives are a pretty neat group, it’s an interesting mix of croc and lizard, and it’s fun to mix silhouettes and traits like that. 🙂

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    1. I’m glad you like it Jason, how serendipitous that we both planned on featuring this lively animal. Please be sure to share a link once you have it up on your blog. I do stop by, but I don’t want to miss it. 🙂 And no worries on your speed. It’s important for us to do things at a sustainable and healthy pace. My posts don’t have nearly as much wonderful attention to detail as yours do. I mostly check Wikipedia and maybe a paper or two to make sure Wikipedia is up to date with the research. The illustration is really the only thing that takes time, and the simplified style helps a lot with how quickly I can paint them. 🙂

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  3. Was not expecting this. I love it now. I think this creature is underrepresented, to be fair. This could become a best friend of Skippy. I would imagine it a bit like “Skippy, meet your new best friend, Francine the Fruitachampsa.” Phenomenal review, Patricia, I’d like to view the next entry when it comes out

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