The Jurassic’s Housecat Croc
"At long last, Fruitachampsa lives. Sort of. This strange crocodyliform has been extinct for around 150 million years. But, after three decades of waiting, this short-snouted croc has finally been officially named.
The new paper that describes Fruitachampsa callisoni calls the animal “A new shartegosuchid crocodyliform from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of western Colorado.” That’s “new” in a relative sense. Between 1975 and 1979, George Callison and James Clark discovered remains from multiple individuals of this croc near Grand Junction, Colorado. This animal was not like the alligators, caimans, gharials, and crocodiles we know today. (In technical terms, all those living lineages are crocodylians – a remaining portion of the larger and more varied group called Crocodyliformes to which Fruitachampsa also belonged.) Informally referred to as the “Fruita Form” in publications for years, this roughly three-foot-long archosaur had slender legs, a short skull, and rows of flat teeth with wrinkled, horizontal cusps socketed behind a small set of pointed teeth at the front of the jaws. As Jurassic expert John Foster dubbed the animal in his book Jurassic West, Fruitachampsa was “the house cat of the Morrison Formation.”
. . .But how did Fruitachampsa make a living? This Jurassic croc clearly was not an aquatic ambush predator. Fruitachampsa was a relatively slender animal adapted for a life on the land, but the more precise details of what it ate and how it behaved are unknown. Especially perplexing are those flat-topped teeth which Fruitachampsa shares with other shartegosuchids – what kind of food could such a tooth be suited to? Lizards, mammals, and even baby dinosaurs might have been suitable prey, but no one knows for sure. Hopefully, now that Fruitachampsa has a name, paleontologists can begin studying the natural history of the Jurassic’s housecat croc."