Scientists in northern Colombia have discovered the fossilized remains of a nearly 900-pound crocodile that roamed the earth 65 million years ago.
According to the science news website, Live Science, during its prehistoric heyday, the reptilian behemoth measured 16 feet long and tipped the scales at nearly 900-pounds.
It has been named, Anthracosuchus Balrogus (A. balrogus), after the fiery demon “Balrog,” who inhabited the Dwarven mines of Moria in J.R.R. Tolkien’s monumental series, “The Lord of the Rings.”
Instead of terrorizing the Misty Mountains of Middle Earth, A. balrogus lurked the jungles of what is now northern Colombia during the late Cretaceous era.
“Much like that giant beast, Anthracosuchus balrogus was [awakened] from deep within a mine after 60 million years trapped within the rocks of tropical South America,” Jonathon Bloch, a researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told Live Science.
‘One does not simply swim to South America’
The gargantuan reptile’s remains were discovered near the Cerrejon coal mine, a fossil-rich region that has unveiled the existence of various other previously unknown prehistoric creatures.
Fossils discovered near Cerrejon include “huge turtles with shells as thick as high-school textbooks” and the remains of the world’s largest snake, Titanboa, which grew up to 48-feet-long.
Four specimens of A. balrogus have been discovered, which according to Live Science, makes it the third new species of ancient crocodilians found at Cerrejon.
The recently discovered croc belonged to a family known as Dyrosaurids, well-known in the scientific community for its Frodo-like ability to survive.
Like the treacherous journey to Mordor, researchers say that the scaled leviathan swam to South America from the African continent nearly 75 million years ago.
Remarkably, the species also survived the mass extinction that decimated the dinosaurs approximately 65 million years ago. Certain members of the species, including A. balrogus, proceeded to adapt to living in freshwater.
“Some dyrosaurid species,” scientists say, “adapted to freshwater ecosystems like the rainforest of Cerrejon, which was much warmer and swampier 60 million years ago than it is today.”
You shall not pass…into the Cenozoic Era
The species’ discovery is significant, scientists claim, because it provides clues as to how animals responded to environmental changes in the past.
“This group offers clues as to how animals survive extinctions and other catastrophes,” Alex Hastings, a postdoctoral researcher at Martin Luther Universitat Halle-Wittenberg told Live Science, adding, “as we face climates that are warmer today, it is important to understand how animals responded in the past.”
A. balgorus, now a primordial shadow of a bygone era, is different from any other species in its family. Most importantly, the creature demonstrates the importance of learning to adapt when it comes to environment and climate related changes.
“It quickly became clear that the four fossil specimens were unlike any dyrosaur species ever found,” Hastings said. “Everyone thinks that crocodiles are living fossils that have remained virtually unchanged for the last 250 million years. But what we’re finding in the fossil record tells a very different story.”