Inside the head of one of Australia’s smallest fossil crocs

30 August 2022

Approximately 13.5 million years ago, north-west Queensland was home to an unusual and particularly tiny species of crocodile and now scientists are unlocking its secrets.

University of Queensland researchers have used state-of-the-art technology to reveal previously unknown details about the prehistoric Trilophosuchus rackhami’s anatomy.

UQ Dino Lab PhD candidate, Jorgo Ristevski said it is the most detailed examination ever undertaken of the skull anatomy of an extinct croc from Australia.

“By micro-CT scanning the beautifully preserved skull, we were able to digitally separate each bone,” Mr Ristevski said.

“We estimated that at adulthood, Trilophosuchus rackhami would have been between 70 and 90 centimetres long and weighed one to two kilograms, which was very small compared to most present-day crocs.

“This was a truly unique looking croc, with a short snout and three distinct ridges on the top of its skull.”

Trilophosuchus rackhami means Rackham’s three-crested croc, which was named in 1993 in honour of Alan Rackham, who now manages the Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Centre at Mt Isa.

Read the full UQ News article here

Ristevski, J. 2022. Neuroanatomy of the mekosuchine crocodylian Trilophosuchus rackhami Willis, 1993. Journal of Anatomy. 0, 1–33 DOI: 10.1111/joa.13732.

Ristevski, J., Weisbecker, V., Scanlon, J.D., Price, G.J. and Salisbury, S.W., 2022. Cranial anatomy of the mekosuchine crocodylian Trilophosuchus rackhami Willis, 1993. The Anatomical Record. DOI: 10.1002/ar.25050.