A University of Missouri field researcher working Morocco has discovered an ancient ancestor of the crocodile, the ancient crocodile has been affectionately named “Sheildcroc” due to the thick armor like skin on its head that would have acted like a shield.
Shieldcroc or aegisuchus witmeri dates to late cretacious period, approximately 95 million years ago. The discovery is seen as important because it helps us to further understand how diverse the prehistoric ancestors of modern species were. Cassey Holliday the University of Missouri researcher and assistant professor who discovered the fossilized remains explains that it is the oldest specimen of its type found in Africa.
Paleontologists believe that this species of prehistoric crocodile would not have fought or preyed upon dinosaurs although other examples in the species which are believed to have been able to walk on their hind legs may have used dinosaurs as a food source. While they had the ability to walk this way it is likely that they would have hunted in a similar way to modern crocodiles as ambush predators waiting in shallow water for unsuspecting prey to come to the water to drink.
It is hypothesized that “sheildcroc” was a fish eater who lay in wait underwater for fish to swim close enough to snatch for an easy meal, this would have eliminated the need for a strong jaw found in other modern crocodile species and allowed for the extra weight and protection of the shieldlike skin over its skull.