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Paleontology
Godzilla had flippers

The blunt-nosed head of a large crocodile-like dinosaur has given paleontologists a peek at what was probably a ferocious seafaring predator that lived about 140 million years ago.

Image courtesy of Marta Fernandez/Science.

At the time, most marine reptiles related to crocodiles, so-called crocodylids, had long snouts and slim teeth, the complete opposite of the newly described Dakosaurus andiniensis, which has an unusual head that is shaped much like a bullet — and is much more similar to landlocked carnivores such as Tyrannosaurus rex. Surrounded by small side teeth, the specimen’s few large teeth are serrated and blunt, unlike those of any other marine reptile. The creature lived in a gulf-like bay of the young Pacific, which is now preserved in rocks in Patagonia.

Nicknamed “Godzilla” by Zulma Gasparini (shown in photo at right) of Argentina’s Universidad Nacional de La Plata, who led the research, the dinosaur most likely ate larger marine dinosaurs, rather than the fish and mollusks on which its smaller relatives fed. Gasparini and her co-workers documented the species in detail in the Nov. 10 Science Express and last month’s National Geographic (whose publishing society co-funded the research), based partly on a complete skull and two lower jaws.

Naomi Lubick

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