Prestosuchus looks like a dinosaur, but it was actually an early ancestor of crocodiles that lived during the Triassic Period, around 240 million years ago. Its remains were discovered in what is now Brazil in South America. It was related to other early crocodile relatives like Postosuchus.
Genera and Species
Classification: Pseudosuchia, Prestosuchidae.
Genus: Prestosuchus (“Prestes crocodile” after paleontologist Vicentino Prestes de Almeida)
Species: P. chiniquensis
Prestosuchus was a large, four-legged reptile with a very large head and lots of sharp teeth. Studies of its muscles show that it walked mostly with its legs straight below its body, rather than sprawled out to the side like modern crocodilians.
LENGTH: 16 to 22 ft. (5 to 6.7 meters)
WEIGHT: 900 lbs. (408 kg)
Unlike modern crocodiles, Prestosuchus was mostly terrestrial, meaning it lived on dry land, rather than in water. Scientists believe it was an apex predator, ambushing prey with a bite from its powerful jaws.
History of Discovery
Prestosuchus was first discovered by Friedrich von Huene in 1938. Despite some sources stating that its name means “Fast crocodile”, it was actually named for the Brazilian self-taught paleontologist Vicentino Prestes de Almeida, who assisted many fossil researchers visiting from other countries in the 1920s and 1930s.
In 2010, a specimen of Prestosuchus with a very well preserved rear leg was discovered, which helped scientists recreate the musculature and develop a better understanding of how these creatures walked. Unlike other early crocodile ancestors which are thought to have been bipedal (walking on two legs), Prestosuchus is believed to be quadrupedal (walking on four legs), like modern crocodiles but with a more erect stance.
Due to being found in a deposit of fossils that was believed to have been a lake in the Triassic Period, scientists think Prestosuchus was an ambush predator that would lurk near popular watering holes for other animals. As the animal stopped to drink, Prestosuchus would attack.