December 24th

Box #24 in our count down is Razanandrogobe…

Days 1-5 of the count down.
Days 6-10 in the count down
Days 11-15 of the count down
Days 16-20 of the count down
Days 21-25 of the count down
Razanandrogobe, the bone-crunching lion-croc

Razanandrogobe: the “Ancestor of the Large Lizard”

Razanandrogobe was a large croc-cousin from middle Jurassic Madagascar. It is only known from parts of the skull, but there is enough to know that it was a ferocious predator. It is the earliest known member of the crocodile-like Notosuchia, and it is this relationship that can give us clues as to what the rest of its body may have looked like. But first, how are Notosuchians different from modern crocodiles?

At first glance, notosuchians look like a cross between a dinosaur and a crocodile. Scaly, lots of teeth, possibly that crocodilian grin, but they walk upright, and most have a head that definitely makes one think “dinosaur” instead of the slender jaws of a croc. But that is where the family resemblance ends, because notosuchia seem to have experimented with just about every spot on the food web imaginable. Some have flexible bands of armor like that of an armadillo, some have short, pig-like snouts complete with fleshy noses, others have fleshy cheeks, while others experimented with mammal-like teeth and where plant-eaters.

Razanandrogobe took the the role of lion-croc. It had strong, bone-crunching jaws, and grew to be about the size of a bear (maybe, hard to tell with only a skull). Some of the teeth were large and serrated, while others were more rounded- teeth well suited to filling in the role of large, carnivorous dinosaurs.

Was it the apex predator of middle Jurassic Madagascar? It’s hard to say. Fossils from this area are few and far between, and most are in bits and pieces. There are several long-necked sauropods, some pterosaur teeth, and some evidence of mammals. Tracks hint at possible large theropods in the area, but there are very few fossils to know for sure if they were locals or just passing through.

It can be frustrating when there is so little information due to lack of fossil material, and the truth is that many sites that work well for tracks are terrible for preserving fossils. The good news is that some fossils have been found, so there’s always a possibility for more if we keep looking. We can only keep trying to find more fossils to fill in the picture, look deeper at the ones we already have, and speculate on the possibilities based on similar finding in other places.

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