Fossil Friday: Kayentasuchus

chibi_Kayentasuchus
Size_Kayentasuchus_flat

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).

LifeSize_Kayentasuchus_flat
Go ahead and put your hand up against the screen, it should be life size!

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.

Resources:

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

Critter of the Month: Scutellosaurus

Meet Skittles.  She might be all hard and pebbly on the outside, but on the inside she wants nothing more than a nice warm hug.  Scratch just a little in between those rocky scutes, and she’ll roll on her back so you can rub her smooth, soft belly scales.

Skittles_profileupdate2

 

The tips of her clawed toes softly scratched stone as she walked. Her head tilted this way and that, like a lizard, large eyes wide as she stared at the straight, dead trees and clean, flat ground. Shiny loops and ledges stuck out from smooth, white walls. Stone? She sniffed the air. Stinging, acidic, not natural, but underneath it was the scent of warm earth.

Continue reading

Critter of the Month: Dilophosaurus

Meet Picasso.  This quiet softie loves spending time with his special person.  Snuggling under the tree to hear a good story?  That sounds like a lovely way to spend a warm afternoon. 🙂

dilophosaurus_updatecolorprofile

Picasso continued his routine patrol of the fence with all the decorum of a peacock. Each step deliberate so that not a single scrubby twig shifted, his fur-like feathers barely brushing against the wire grid too high to jump. Dry ferns and prickly scrub grew through the mesh at the foot of the fence, but ahead there was an emptiness in the dense line of browning vegetation. And the fence…the fence was gone!

Continue reading

Critter of the Month: Ornitholestes

Meet Opie. He’s a happy little fella who loves to curl up in your lap, so it’s a good thing he’s about the size of a big dog!

Opieprofile_flat

Sunlight streamed through the tangled layers of conifer branches and palm fronds to pierce the eternal twilight of the undergrowth. A cloud of tiny, reflective wings coiled like mist in the shaft of light, the thin whine of their hanging flight almost drowned by the whirring, buzzing, drumming, chirping of countless other unseen insects. Alien cries from leather-winged creatures called from above, answered and challenged by a cacophony of voices that clicked, whooped, hollered, whistled…any and every sound fighting to be heard through air so dense with foliage and humidity, constant moisture clung to the leaves and dripped to the black forest floor.

Continue reading