Posts Tagged ‘Deinosuchus rugosus’

6 Scariest Species to have Ever Lived in Georgia

October 30, 2016

6. The Hell Pigs

Vicious entelodonts lived on earth from the late Eocene to the mid Miocene (for over 20 million years).  They were 4 feet tall and reached weights of 930 pounds.

Entelodonts are known as hell pigs because their fossil remains represent a once terrifying animal that resembled a giant pig.  They occurred across most of the Northern Hemisphere, and there were many species over time.  Entelodonts existed between 37.2 million years BP-16.3 million years BP.  Although they resembled pigs, anatomical evidence suggests they were more closely related to the common ancestor of hippos and whales.  Enteledonts were 4 feet tall and weighed up to 930 pounds.  They were fast runners, and paleontologists believe they rammed into their prey, knocking their victims down and biting them until their bones were broken, probably similar to the way hippos kill humans in Africa today.  Fossil evidence of enteledonts has been found in Twiggs and Houston Counties in Georgia.  The tooth found in Houston County compares favorably with Archaeotherium, a once widespread species of enteledont.

Picture

Entelodont tooth found in Bonaire, Georgia.  I am not the author who took a photo of this tooth. This photo was made by Thomas Thurman and it’s from his http://www.georgiasfossils.com website.

4. (tie) The Giant Short-faced Bear (Arctodus simus) and the Saber-toothed Cat (Smilodon fatalis)

I can’t decide which 1 of these was more frightening.  Giant short-faced bears were on average as large as Kodiak bears–the largest subspecies of brown bear ( Ursus arctos ).  However, they probably made a lot of noise and could be easily detected and avoided.  Saber-tooths were ambush predators and could sneak up on prey in the dark or in thickly vegetated habitat.  Arctodus was much larger, weighing about 1000 pounds compared to ~350 pounds for Smilodon.  But the latter was very powerful and sported fangs.  Fossil evidence of this big cat has been found in all of the states bordering Georgia.  Fossil evidence of Arctodus has turned up in an Alabama county adjacent to Georgia as well as several sites in Florida.  Both undoubtedly once ranged into Georgia.

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Giant short-faced bear and saber-toothed catThe illustration of this saber-tooth is inaccurate.  Smilodon had a bob-tail and their forelimbs were much more powerfully built than depicted here.

3. Appalachiosaurus

 

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Appalachiosaurus terrorized upstate Georgia during the late Cretaceous.

Appalachiosaurus was a species of tyrannosaur that lived on the eastern side of the Western Interior Seaway during the late Cretaceous (~80 million years BP-65 million years BP).  They were the top land predator, probably hunting hadrosaurs or anything else they could catch.  Fossil evidence of this species has been excavated from Hannahatchee Creek near Columbus, Georgia.  The type specimen, a nearly complete skeleton, was found in Alabama.

2. Deinosuchus rugosus

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Evidence suggests Deinosuchus rugosus ate tyrannosaurs.

This extinct crocodylian, a relative of alligator ancestors, grew to an estimated 36 feet long and weighed up to 17,000 pounds.  They were large and powerful enough to seize and drag a tyrannosaur into the water, and there is some fossil evidence they preyed upon them.  They likely ate dinosaurs as a significant part of their diet.  Fossil evidence of this species has also been found in Hannahatchee Creek as well as the Chattahoochee River in Georgia.

1. Man (Homo sapiens)

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Homo sapiens is clearly the scariest species to have ever walked on earth.  Here is a photo of an atomic bomb mushroom cloud.  Humans can wipe out entire cities with nuclear weapons.

Human beings construct weapons of mass destruction capable of turning livable habitat into uninhabitable wasteland.  I can’t think of anything scarier than that.

Cretaceous Non-Dinosaur Fossils Found in Georgia and Alabama

February 11, 2011

This week’s blog entry is a continuation of last week’s, but I’m going to highlight the non-dinosaur species of the Cretaceous that left fossils in the two state region.  Remember, half of this region was under ocean water, so most Cretaceous fossils found here are marine.

Mosasaurs–various species

I took this photo of a  tylosaurus skeleton at the Georgia Southern Museum in Statesboro.  Tylosaurus was a large species of mosasaur.  Disarticulated specimens are occasionally found in Georgia and Alabama, but nearly complete skeletons are rare.  Therefore, this specimen was imported from North Dakota where more complete specimens are more commonly found.

Scientists debate whether mosasaurs were more closely related to snakes or to monitor lizards.  They were much like giant replicas of the latter but with flippers instead of legs.  At least 4 species swam the shallow seas that inundated what’s now Georgia’s and Alabama’s coastal plain.  Tylosaurus, a 40 foot long monster, was the largest and king of the seas, preying on fish, octopus, sharks, plesiosaurs, and other mosasaurs.  Plenty of mosasaur fossils bear evidence of interspecific battles.  Platecarpus and Clidastes were two other common mosasaurs.  Globidens, named for its globe-shaped teeth, fed upon shellfish which it crushed with its specialized dentition.

Plesiosaurs–various species

Illustration of plesiosaur from google images.

The many species of plesiosaurs can be split into two general types: the long-necked and the thick-necked.  The long-necked types had ponderous, probably camouflaged, bodies.  They quietly swam into schools of fish before their head went into action, snapping left and right to destroy and consume schools of fish.  The thick-necked kinds were more active predators resembling mosasaurs in habit.

The Robust Crocodylian–Deinosuchus rugosus

Wow!  Look at the size of the skull on this monster.  This is a famous photograph of  a Deinosuchus skull mounted for many years at the Natural History Museum in New York.  David Schwimmer, the leading authority on this species, now writes that this skull was mistakenly reconstructed and the species was not quite this big, but still was almost as large…big enough to kill and eat tyrannosaurs.

I discuss this species more thoroughly in my blog entry, “Shit-eating sharks and fish of the Cretaceous,” from my October archives.  The largest crocodylian of all time likely fed upon tyrannosaurs and hadrosaurs, but turtles made up most of its diet.  It crushed the chelonians with blunt teeth powered by the the strongest jaw crushing strength in the history of the natural world.

Cretaceous turtles

I took this photo of Protostega gigas at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham.  It was the largest sea turtle of all time.

Cretaceous turtles are split into two genus: Toxochelyds and Protochelyds.

Ginsu Shark–Cretoxyrhina mantelli

All these shark teeth come from one species.  This photo is from the oceans of kansas website.

Scientists named 7 different species based on all the teeth from this single species.  Then in 1891, someone discovered a skeleton and found all these different teeth on one animal.  The fish is named after the famous knives advertised on late night television.

Armoured fish–Xiphactinus audax

I took these photos of a Xiphactinus audax replica skelton mounted at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

Coelacanth

Photo of a coelacanth from google images.

This ancient species, a real living fossil, predates the age of the dinosaurs.  It’s closely related to the ancestor of the evolutionary link between fish and amphibians.  Coelacanths originally evolved 400 million years ago–long before dinosaurs evolved.  They survived the extinction of the dinosaurs 65.5 million years ago, and still survive today because they’re not good eating for humans who have only been around in our present form for .2-.3 million years.

No Cretaceous age  mammal fossils have been discovered in the two state region, but they may have been more common than dinosaurs in the upland areas.  They were probably small insectivorous animals, nocturnal in habit.  They didn’t live in a situation that would be prone to preserving them as fossils.   Dr. Schwimmer has found one leg bone of a Cretaceous bird from the Hesperornidae family.  Species from this family grew to 7 feet tall and were wingless, armless oddities that ate fish.  Primitive birds may have also been common in the upland areas but perchance didn’t live in a place that would make them likely candidates for fossilization.

References:

www.oceansofkansas.com

Be sure to check the above website out.  It’s a fantastic site.

 

 

 

Shit-eating Sharks and Fish of the Cretaceous

October 15, 2010

To keep abreast of the latest paleontological finds in Georgia, I often check the Georgia Journal of Science.  The March 2010 volume has a couple of fascinating articles.  The first is “Coprolites of Deinosuchus: Late Cretaceous Estuarine Crocodylian Feces from West Georgia,” by Samantha Harrell and David Schwimmer.

Deinosuchus rugosus may have been the most powerful predator to ever live in what’s now Georgia.  This monstrous crocodylian grew to 36 feet long, weighed 12,000 pounds, and had a bite force of 13,000 newtons, perhaps the hardest bite of any land animal to ever live.  It dominated the salt marshes of Cretaceous North America (salt marshes were the most widespread ecotone of its time) even seizing and killing dinosaurs such as hadrosaurs and tyrannosaurs.  Its most common prey, however, were turtles that it crushed in its deadly jaws.  It survived as a species from 84 million to 77 million years BP, and left many fossils on the West Georgia/East Alabama border along Hanahatchee Creek near Columbus.  It was neither alligator nor crocodile but is thought to be related to an ancestor of the former.  Dr. Schwimmer, a professor from Columbus College, has been studying dinosaurs in Georgia for almost 30 years, and he wrote an excellent book devoted to the ecology of this fearsome creature.

Part of the dust cover of Dr. Schwimmer’s excellent book about Deinosuchus.

Dr. Schwimmer and Samantha Harrell now believe they’ve identified coprolites originally excreted by Deinosuchus which they found associated with its fossils in west Georgia. 

Picture of Deinosuchus coprolites from Dr. Schwimmer’s book.

Surprisingly, fossil shark and fish teeth are occasionally found on the outside of these coprolites.  These are not interpeted to have been prey of Deinosuchus.  Instead, the scientists believe it’s evidence that the sharks and fish were feeding on its feces.  It’s thought that the strong digestive juices would’ve destroyed and rendered unrecognizable the shark’s teeth, if they had been eaten by Deinosuchus, but the ones they found are identifiable as those from crow sharks (Squalicorax) http://www.oceansofkansas.com/sharks/Kansas/s-kaup1.jpg , an extinct scavenging species.  See the link for a picture of a crow shark’s tooth.  Other crocodylian coprolites discovered in Georgia are thought to belong to another extinct crocodylian–Borealosuchus.

Coprophagy, or the eating of feces, is not that unusual in the animal world.  Box turtles eat deer feces.  Crows and ravens eat crap of all kinds.  Dogs fed dry dog food crave their own feces.  Rabbits and rats must reconsume their own feces for nutrient extraction.  Foals must consume the mama horse’s feces in order to obtain the bacteria they need to digest the plants they will eat as adults.  Some snails depend entirely on fish feces.  And many insects such as butterflies and dung beetles are all attracted to shit…like flies, as the old cliche` goes.

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The second interesting article from the March volume of the GJS is a “Preliminary Description of Pleistocene Rodents from Clark Quarry, Brunswick, Georgia,” by Ray Cornay and A.J. Mead who is from Georgia College in Milledgeville.  Clark Quarry is a productive fossil site, yielding adult and juvenile mammoth skeletons, the complete skull of a long-horned bison which I discussed in an earlier blog entry, and many other large and small mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, and fish fossils.  Here’s the list of rodents found at this fossil site:

Woodchuck–Marmota monax

Bog lemming–Synaptomys cooperi

Capybara–Hydrochoeris holmesi

Florida or round-tailed muskrat–Neofiber alleni

Rice rat–Oryzomys palustris

Cotton rat–Sigmodon hispidus

Harvest mouse–Reithrodontomys

The first two species on this list no longer range this far south.

Current range of the woodchuck.  This map is a little off.  I’ve seen woodchucks in Lafayette, Georgia.  Notice how far south Clark Quarry is compared to this species’ present range.

Current range of the bog lemming.

The Florida muskrat ranges just a little south of Brunswick today by only a few miles.  This species was more widespread during the Pleistocene, but today is restricted to Florida and extreme south Georgia.  Rice rats, cotton rats, and harvest mice still live in the region.  The species of capybara found as fossil specimens here is, of course, extinct.

The presence of woodchucks and bog lemmings is evidence of much cooler summers than those of today’s south Georgia, but the other species indicate winters at least as mild as those of today.  Scientists believe a warm thermal enclave existed near the south Atlantic coast during the Ice Age, and many believe temperatures were more equable.  I think temperatures were more equable during some climate phases of the Ice Age, but not all the time.

Woodchucks and bog lemmings both prefer to inhabit meadow/forest edge habitat which was probably a predominant ecotone of the late Pleistocene southeastern coastal plain where a mixture of open forests, prairie and wetlands existed rather unlike the closed canopy forests of today.  Fire, megafauna grazing, passenger pigeon mast consumption, locust infestations, and rapid climate fluctuations created a dynamic habitat where the ratio of woodlands to grasslands waxed and waned.  Florida muskrats (which aren’t closely related to the common muskrat–Ondatra) like open marshes, and capybaras thrive in flooded grasslands, so I believe wet prairies must have been one of the common environments in this region during the late Pleistocene.