Ancient Croc Named for Lord of the Rings Beast

'Anthracosuchus balrogus' survived mass extinction 65M years ago
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2014 2:40 PM CDT
Ancient Croc Named for Lord of the Rings Beast
A dyrosaur, of which Anthracosuchus balrogus is one, battling a monster snake called Titanoboa.   (Smithsonian Channel)

There's a new ancient beast in town—a 900-pound, 16-foot crocodile of sorts who "ate turtles and battled monster snakes"—and he's been named in honor of Balrog, the monster who lurked in the depths of JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth. "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," a Florida Museum of Natural History researcher tells LiveScience. Which is to say that scientists pulled four specimens of the critter from Colombia's Cerrejón coal mine—the third species of crocodilian found in the fossil-dense area.

A. balrogus crossed from its native Africa to South America, mysteriously surviving the mass dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago and managing to adapt to a freshwater environment along the way. "This family of crocodyliforms in Cerrejón adapted and did very well despite incredible obstacles," says one researcher, "which could speak to the ability of living crocodiles to adapt and overcome." One physical characteristic in A. balrogus' favor: A short, blunt snout and huge jaw muscles that would have given it a powerful bite, reports University of Florida News. (More Lord of the Rings stories.)

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