Razanandrongobe sakalavae, a gigantic mesoeucrocodylian from the Middle Jurassic of Madagascar, is the oldest known notosuchian
OPEN PeerJ | 12 Jul 2017
C Dal Sasso, G Pasini, G Fleury and S Maganuco
Razanandrongobe sakalavae Maganuco, Dal Sasso & Pasini, 2006 is a large predatory archosaur from the Middle Jurassic (Bathonian) of the Mahajanga Basin, NW Madagascar. It was diagnosed on the basis of teeth and a fragmentary maxilla, but its affinities were uncertain. Here we describe new cranial remains (above all, an almost complete right premaxilla and a caudally incomplete left dentary) that greatly improve our knowledge on this enigmatic species and reveal its anatomy to be crocodylomorph. The right premaxilla indicates that the rostrum was deep, wide, and not pointed; it bears five teeth that are sub-vertical and just slightly curved lingually; the mesial teeth are U-shaped in cross-section and have serrated carinae on the lingual side; the aperturae nasi osseae (external bony nares) are confluent and face rostrally; and there is no lateral groove at the premaxillomaxillary suture for reception of a hypertrophied lower caniniform tooth. The preserved portion of the left dentary has an edentulous tip and bears eight large mandibular teeth of which the mesial (1-3) are the largest, but none is a hypertrophied caniniform tooth; the mandibular (dentary) symphysis extends caudally to the level of the third tooth; the splenial is not preserved, but its sutural marks on the dentary indicate that it contributed to the mandibular symphysis for at least 20% of the symphyseal length in dorsal aspect. On the basis of this new data, some previously uncertain features of the holotype maxilla-such as the margin of the suborbital fenestra, the contact surfaces for the palatine, the ectopterygoid, and the jugal-are now apparent. Testing of the phylogenetic position of the species within Crocodylomorpha indicates that R. sakalavae is a mesoeucrocodylian. It also represents one of the earliest events of exacerbated increase in body size along the evolutionary history of the group. In addition, it is by far the oldest notosuchian. A cranial reconstruction of this gigantic predator is also attempted here. The very robust jaw bones of R. sakalavae, coupled with its peculiar dentition, strongly suggest a diet that included hard tissue such as bone and tendon.
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