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Temporal range: Upper Triassic
228 to 199.6 mya
Machaeroprosopus mccauleyi.jpg
Skull of Pseudopalatus mccauleyi
Scientific classification

Parasuchia Huxley, 1875

Phytosaur skull

Phytosaurs are an extinct group of large semi-aquatic Upper Triassic archosaurs.

Phytosaurs were long-snouted and heavily armoured, bearing a remarkable resemblance to modern crocodiles in size, appearance, and lifestyle.[1] This is an example of convergence or parallel evolution. The name 'phytosaur' means 'plant reptile': the first fossils of phytosaurs were mistakenly thought to belong to plant eaters. The sharp teeth in phytosaur jaws clearly show they were predators.

Although phytosaurs were not true crocodilians themselves, they were more closely related to the crocodilians than to other modern reptiles. Crocodiles did not become phytosaur-like until the Lower Jurassic. "Consensus generally places phytosaurs as basal crurotarsans, possibly the basal-most group".[2]

Phytosaurs had a nearly global distribution. Fossils have been recovered from Europe, North America, India, Morocco, Thailand, Brazil and Madagascar.

References[change | change source]

  1. Benton M.J. 1990. The reign of the reptiles. Crescent, New York. p75
  2. Brusatte, Stephen L. et al 2010. The higher-level phylogeny of Archosauria (Tetrapoda: Diapsida). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. 8: 1, 3–47. [1]