Lazarussuchus is not alive

Some websites are giving out misleading information about this fossil reptile Lazarussuchus. For example, one claims the following to be true:

I kind of like this name, and I like the whole idea of this animal. The Lazarussuchus is a very small crocodile common during late Triassic period. It was assumed to have gone extinct about 170 million years ago. So far two living varieties have been discovered, the first in 1982. A lazarussuchus is very small (a few inches long), which seems to me a good size for a crocodile to be.

There are many mistakes in this quote.

  1. Lazarussuchus is not a small crocodile. It was a fossil reptile known as a choristodere (also known as champsosaurs). Choristoderes are an enigmatic group of fossil reptiles. Researchers disagree as to whether or not they are primitive relatives of lepidosaurs (lizards, snakes, and tuataras) or primitive relatives of archosaurs (birds, crocodiles and dinosaurs).
  2. Lazarussuchus is known from two species, both from the Cenozoic Era (Oligocene-Miocene). The Triassic Period was during the Mesozoic Era. No definite choristoderes are known from the Triassic. The only definite known choristoderes are exclusively from the Cretaceous to the Miocene (roughly 145-15 million years ago). It is possible there was a Late Triassic choristodere, but whether or not this one is actually part of the group or not has been disputed.
  3. If Lazarussuchus had existed and gone extinct 170 million years ago, as the quote claims, would be from the Jurassic Period, not the Triassic Period. The Triassic Period ended roughly 200 million years ago, a difference of 30 million years.
  4. Lazarussuchus is not a living species. It is true there are two known species, but both are only known from fossilized remains.
  5. The first described remains of Lazarussuchus were published in the early 1990s, not in the 1980s.
  6. The image that accompanies the article to show what Lazarussuchus looked like is not in fact a picture of Lazarussuchus at all! It is a picture of the living crocodile lizard, Shinisaurus. Crocodile lizards are named for their superficial resemblance to living crocodylians, just like alligator lizards (Elgaria). But neither crocodile lizards nor alligator lizards are in fact related to crocodylians at all. Instead, they are relatives of monitor lizards (varanids).
  7. The head of Lazarussuchus would have been only a few inches long, not the entire animal. It is true though that it would not be very big.

I don't want to seem to be a grouch, but I don't want people to be confused or appear stupid by citing this animal as being alive.
Choristoderes were very interesting animals about which we do not know very much. I have put a few images of the skulls of other fossil choristoderes (and Lazarussuchus) on this hub. I hope that this is helpful for others. If you want to learn more about choristoderes, please check out these websites:

http://www4.ncsu.edu/~dtksepka/Dan%20Ksepka%20/Choristoderes.html

http://cameronmccormick.blogspot.com/2007/06/those-super-cryptic-choristoderes.html


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The skull of Champsosaurus in dorsal view. Modified from Russell, L. S. 1956. The Cretaceous reptile Champsosaurus natator Parks.The skull of Champsosaurus in multiple views. Modified from Erickson, B. R. 1985. Aspects of Some Anatomical Structures of Champsosaurus (Reptilia: Eosuchia).The skull of Lazarussuchus to show off how clearly unlike the modern crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus) it is, and that it is definitely not a lizard, and most certainly there fore not the crocodile lizard either. Modified from Evans, S.E. and Klembara, The skull of Simoedosaurus in dorsal view. Modified from Erickson, B. R. 1987. Simoedosaurus dakotensis, New Species, a Diapsid Reptile (Archosauromorpha: Choristodera) from the Paleocene of North America.The skull of the living crocodile lizard, Shinisaurus. Compare with fossil choristoderes, and particularly Lazarussuchus. It is clear that these are not the same animals. Image modified from DigiMorph.A photograph of the living crocodile lizard, Shinisaurus. This is the image which accompanies the hub which calls it Lazarussuchus. It is clearly not Lazarussuchus. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
The skull of Champsosaurus in dorsal view. Modified from Russell, L. S. 1956. The Cretaceous reptile Champsosaurus natator Parks.
The skull of Champsosaurus in dorsal view. Modified from Russell, L. S. 1956. The Cretaceous reptile Champsosaurus natator Parks.
The skull of Champsosaurus in multiple views. Modified from Erickson, B. R. 1985. Aspects of Some Anatomical Structures of Champsosaurus (Reptilia: Eosuchia).
The skull of Champsosaurus in multiple views. Modified from Erickson, B. R. 1985. Aspects of Some Anatomical Structures of Champsosaurus (Reptilia: Eosuchia).
The skull of Lazarussuchus to show off how clearly unlike the modern crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus) it is, and that it is definitely not a lizard, and most certainly there fore not the crocodile lizard either. Modified from Evans, S.E. and Klembara,
The skull of Lazarussuchus to show off how clearly unlike the modern crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus) it is, and that it is definitely not a lizard, and most certainly there fore not the crocodile lizard either. Modified from Evans, S.E. and Klembara,
The skull of Simoedosaurus in dorsal view. Modified from Erickson, B. R. 1987. Simoedosaurus dakotensis, New Species, a Diapsid Reptile (Archosauromorpha: Choristodera) from the Paleocene of North America.
The skull of Simoedosaurus in dorsal view. Modified from Erickson, B. R. 1987. Simoedosaurus dakotensis, New Species, a Diapsid Reptile (Archosauromorpha: Choristodera) from the Paleocene of North America.
The skull of the living crocodile lizard, Shinisaurus. Compare with fossil choristoderes, and particularly Lazarussuchus. It is clear that these are not the same animals. Image modified from DigiMorph.
The skull of the living crocodile lizard, Shinisaurus. Compare with fossil choristoderes, and particularly Lazarussuchus. It is clear that these are not the same animals. Image modified from DigiMorph.
A photograph of the living crocodile lizard, Shinisaurus. This is the image which accompanies the hub which calls it Lazarussuchus. It is clearly not Lazarussuchus. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
A photograph of the living crocodile lizard, Shinisaurus. This is the image which accompanies the hub which calls it Lazarussuchus. It is clearly not Lazarussuchus. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

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Comments 4 comments

pgrundy 7 years ago

Thanks for writing this. I don't think you are a grouch at all. Got my info off the web and it just goes to show you can't trust everything you find! All the best to you! Thanks. :)


pgrundy 7 years ago

BTW--Eventually I will get the time to redo my article but in the meantime, you must know that other articles on the web say the same thing--that it's a living fossil. I take you at your word though.


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RomerianReptile 7 years ago Author

Yes, I'm aware of some cryptozoology sites are claiming. But if you refer to the Wikipedia article which cites work by actual researchers on these animals or the webpage I presented by Ksepka (a paleontologist and choristodere researcher), you'll see this isn't the case. I don't know where people got this idea that choristoderes are currently living. It'd be GREAT if they were for all of us, a truly astonishing group, but sadly they are not.

I can't quite figure out where this initial misconception started, but it certainly seems to have gained momentum.


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RomerianReptile 7 years ago Author

I updated my hub with a link to a blog post I found about choristoderes.

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