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.
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!
- 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.
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