Mandasuchus tanyauchen: Ancient Reptile Who Lived Around 245 Million Years Ago And Grew Up to 3m In Length

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Mandasuchus by Maurice Wilson, Nov. 2010

An international team of paleontologists from the Natural History Museum, London, the University of Birmingham and Virginia Tech has formally given an ancient carnivorous reptile a name, over several decades since its fossils were found in Tanzania. The formal species description of Mandasuchus tanyauchen is published in a special memoir of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.


A cousin of modern-day crocodiles, Mandasuchus tanyauchen was an archosaur — the lineage of reptiles that include dinosaurs, crocodiles and birds.

The ancient reptile lived around 245 million years ago (Triassic period) and grew up to 10 feet (3 m) in length.

The fossilized remains of Mandasuchus tanyauchen were first discovered in the 1930s as part of a major paleontological expedition to East Africa, which included work on a geological formation in Tanzania called the Manda Beds.

The fossils in these beds date from the Middle Triassic epoch. This was a time when the archosaurs began their rise to dominance.

English paleontologist Alan Charig proposed the name Mandasuchus for this species in the 1950s, when he studied the Tanzanian fossils as part of his PhD thesis. Charig continued his career in paleontology, but never completed his work on this reptile.

In recent years, new expeditions to Tanzania have found additional fossils, which have remained in Tanzania.

Combined with the older discoveries, these are shedding light on exciting topics such as early dinosaur evolution.

“Studies like these highlight the important role that museums play as storehouses of information of the natural world,” said senior author Professor Paul Barrett, a paleontologist in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum, London.

“Although it took decades to complete this work, the specimens remained safe and accessible in our collections and now form the basis of this amazing new species.”


Richard J. Butler et al. 2018. Mandasuchus tanyauchen, gen. et sp. nov., a pseudosuchian archosaur from the Manda Beds (Middle Triassic) of Tanzania; pp. 96–121 in C. A. Sidor and S. J. Nesbitt (eds.), Vertebrate and Climatic Evolution in the Triassic Rift Basins of Tanzania and Zambia. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 17. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 37 (6); doi: 10.1080/02724634.2017.1343728