An international team of paleontologists has identified a new teleosaur and named it after Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, frontman of the band Motörhead.
Lemmysuchus obtusidens (Lemmy’s blunt-toothed crocodile) lived around 164 million years ago during the Middle Jurassic epoch.
The prehistoric beast was a sea-going member of an extinct group called teleosaurs, common during the Jurassic but only distantly related to modern crocodiles.
It inhabited shallow sea waters around the coast of land that would become modern-day Europe.
The body of Lemmysuchus obtusidens was almost 20 feet (6 m) long, with a skull measuring more than 3 feet (1 m).
Its broad snout and large blunt teeth evolved for crushing shelled prey such as turtles — in contrast to its close relatives that had longer snouts and thinner teeth for catching fish.
“With a meter-long skull and a total length of 5.8 m, it would have been one of the biggest coastal predators of its time,” said lead author Dr. Michela Johnson, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh.
The specimen was dug up by fossil collectors in the early 20th century from a clay pit quarry near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, UK.
Dr. Johnson and co-authors found that the fossil had been classified incorrectly with other sea crocodiles from the quarries at Peterborough, and it needed a new scientific name.
“It can be difficult to identify new species as we are normally working with incomplete fossil skeletons,” Dr. Johnson said.
“Following careful anatomical comparison, and by referring to the main specimen held at the Natural History Museum, London, we could see that most of the previous finds were actually from relatives of this croc rather than the species itself, and we were able to assign a new name.”
The research is published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
Michela M. Johnson et al. Re-description of ‘Steneosaurus’ obtusidens Andrews, 1909, an unusual macrophagous teleosaurid crocodylomorph from the Middle Jurassic of England. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, published online August 7, 2017; doi: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlx035