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Fossil Friday: A Croc Smile from the Cretaceous

Günter Bechly
Photo: Susisuchus anatoceps, by Günter Bechly.

This fossil crocodile from the Lower Cretaceous Crato Formation of northeast Brazil looks like it is smiling at us. It is a previously unpublished specimen of the duck-billed species Susisuchus anatoceps (Salisbury et al. 2003), which is closely related to modern crown-group crocodiles (Salisbury et al. 2006). I could photograph this wonderful specimen in July 2008 at the collection of the German fossil trading company MS Fossil. This specimen is of particular scientific importance, because it has perfectly preserved hind limbs, contrary to the holotypes and only published specimens of both described species of the family Susisuchidae (Salisbury et al. 2003, Fortier & Schultz 2009, Figureido et al. 2009)

The wider croc relationship (Crurotarsi) appeared abruptly in the Lower Triassic (e.g., Ctenosauriscus about 247 mya), while genuine Crocodylomorpha first appeared likewise abruptly in the lowermost Upper Triassic with gracile bipedal forms like Trialestes and Carnufex about 231 million years ago (Irmis et al. 2013, Drymala & Zanno 2016). These two events rank among the numerous abrupt appearances (“explosions“) in the Triassic, which also include the abrupt appearances of marine reptiles (15 families, including the first ichthyosaurs), gliding and flying reptiles (including the first pterosaurs), dinosaurs, turtles, lizards (Lepidosauromorpha), and even real mammals (Mammaliaformes).

Even the renowned mainstream paleontologist Peter Ward, who is strongly opposed to intelligent design, has admitted that “the diversity of Triassic animal plans is analogous to the diversity of marine body plans that resulted from the Cambrian Explosion … and, as will be shown, was as important for animal life on land as the Cambrian Explosion was for marine animal life” (Ward 2006: 160). Concerning the appearance of dinosaurs in the Triassic, a recent study in Nature Communications (Bernardi et al. 2018) demonstrated an “explosive increase in dinosaurian abundance,” and the lead author commented in a press release from the University of Bristol (2018) that “it’s amazing how clear cut the change from ‘no dinosaurs’ to ‘all dinosaurs’ was.“ Such scientific sources confirm the claim of Darwin critics against those hardcore Darwinists who ignorantly maintain that we, the critics, are making this stuff up. Such ubiquitous discontinuities contradict the gradualist predictions of Darwin’s theory and thus should count as empirical falsifications of that theory (Bechly & Meyer 2017, Bechly 2021).


  • Bechly G 2021. Chapter 31: Does the Fossil Record Demonstrate Darwinian Evolution? Pp. 345–356 in: Dembski WA, Luskin C & Holden JM (eds). The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith. Eugene (OR): Harvest House.
  • Bechly G & Meyer SC 2017. Chapter 10. The Fossil Record and Universal Common Ancestry. Pp. 331–361 in: Moreland JP, Meyer SC, Shaw C, Gauger AK, Grudem W (eds). Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. Wheaton (IL): Crossway.
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  • Drymala SM & Zanno LE 2016. Osteology of Carnufex carolinensis (Archosauria: Psuedosuchia) from the Pekin Formation of North Carolina and Its Implications for Early Crocodylomorph Evolution. PLOS ONE 11(6):e0157528, 1–34. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0157528
  • Figueiredo RG & Kellner AWA 2009. A new crocodylomorph specimen from the Araripe Basin (Crato Member, Santana Formation), northeastern Brazil. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 83(2), 323–331. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12542-009-0016-6.
  • Fortier DC & Schultz CL 2009. A new neosuchian crocodylomorph (Crocodyliformes, Mesoeucrocodylia) from the Early Cretaceous of north-east Brazil. Palaeontology 52(5), 991–1007. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4983.2009.00894.x.
  • Irmis RB, Nesbitt SJ & Sues H-D 2013. Early Crocodylomorpha. Pp. 275–302 in: Nesbitt SJ, Desojo JB & Irmis RB (eds). Anatomy, Phylogeny and Palaeobiology of Early Archosaurs and their Kin. Geological Society of London, Special Publications 379. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1144/SP379.24.
  • Salisbury SW, Frey E, Martill DM & Buchy MC 2003. A new crocodilian from the Lower Cretaceous Crato Formation of north-eastern Brazil. Palaeontographica Abteilung A 270(1–3), 3–47. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1127/pala/270/2003/3.
  • Salisbury SW, Molnar RE, Frey E & Willis PMA 2006. The origin of modern crocodyliforms: new evidence from the Cretaceous of Australia. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 273(1600), 2439–2448. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2006.3613.
  • University of Bristol 2018. Dinosaurs ended — and originated — with a bang! Science Daily, April 16, 2018. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180416105803.htm
  • Ward PD 2006. Out of Thin Air. Joseph Henry Press, Washington (DC), 282 pp.
  • Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susisuchus.