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New Species of Ancient 'Ankle Biting' Reptile Named by Witte Museum Paleontologist 

  • Courtesy of The Witte Museum
You'd think if something's been dead for 65 million years (if not much, much longer), that we'd have found and catalogued its moldering bones by now. But surprisingly enough, that's not the case – new species are identified from fossils on the regular!

The latest discovery has been described and named by Dr. Thomas Adams, the Witte Museum's Curator of Paleontology and Geology, and it's no wonder it escaped notice until now – its size is diminutive, to say the least. The wee "terrestrial crocodyliform" is the first of its kind to be identified as living in the Cretaceous Period in Texas, and called the Lake Proctor area of Central Texas its stomping grounds approximately 115 million years ago.

  • Pamela Riddle, courtesy of The Witte Museum

Adams coined the name Tarsomordeo winkleri, which can be transliterated from Latin to "ankle biter of Winkler." But who's this Winkler, and why did Adams sic an extinct species on his ankles? As it turns out, Adams' toothy appellation came out of the desire to honor Southern Methodist University's Dr. Dale Winkler in recognition of his major contributions to Texas paleontology and geology.

Little Tarsomordeo isn't the only crocodilian to be found running amok in our great state, either. Adams notes that “we are learning that the fossil record for this group is much more diverse than previously thought,” and it turns out Tarsomordeo “is the second new species to be described from Texas since June.”

Of course, since they're all quite extinct, you don't need to worry about any of these ankle biters when you take your next hike.

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January 12, 2022

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