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Temporal range: Late Triassic
Desmatosuchus mount.jpg
Desmatosuchus from Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Aetosauria
Family: Stagonolepididae
Subfamily: Desmatosuchinae
Genus: Desmatosuchus
Case, 1920
  • D. haplocerus (Cope, 1892)
  • D. spurensis Case, 1921 (type)
  • D. smalli Parker, 2005[1]

Desmatosuchus (meaning "link crocodile") is an extinct genus of archosaur belonging to the Order Aetosauria. It lived during the Late Triassic in Texas.


D. spurensis compared to a human

Desmatosuchus was one of the largest aetosaurs, being 5 metres (16 ft) long[2] and about 1.50 m (5 ft) high. It possessed an armored body and pig-like head. It had a shovel-like snout and weak teeth that suggest it lived by uprooting soft plants.

Like many of its relatives, it had heavy armoured plates along its back, tail, and parts of the underside. However, unlike most other aetosaurs, Desmatosuchus also had two rows of spikes along the sides of its back. The largest spikes, above the shoulders, were 45 centimetres (18 in) long. These probably gave it extra protection against predators.[2]

Classification and species[edit]

D. haplocerus from the Late Triassic of Texas

A revision of Desmatosuchus by Parker (2008) found the lectotype of Episcoposaurus haplocerus to be referable to Desmatosuchus but indeterminate at the species level. Therefore, E. haplocerus was considered to be a nomen dubium and D. spurensis was reinstated as the type species of the genus. Two species were accepted as valid: D. spurensis and D. smalli.[3] Desmatosuchus chamaensis is recognized as a distinct genus,[4] but there is some dispute about whether the name Heliocanthus or Rioarribasuchus applies.[5]

The following cladogram simplified after an analysis presented by Julia B. Desojo, Martin D. Ezcurra and Edio E. Kischlat (2012).[6]


Aetosauroides scagliai


Aetosaurus ferratus

Coahomasuchus kahleorum

Neoaetosauroides engaeus

Calyptosuchus wellesi

Stagonolepis robertsoni

Aetobarbakinoides brasiliensis





Tecovasuchus chatterjeei

Rioarribasuchus chamaensis

Paratypothorax andressorum


Sierritasuchus macalpini

Longosuchus meadei

Lucasuchus hunti

Acaenasuchus geoffreyi


Desmatosuchus haplocerus

Desmatosuchus smalli

In popular culture[edit]

Desmatosuchus was featured in When Dinosaurs Roamed America, driving away an annoying Coelophysis and a predatory Rutiodon. Desmatosuchus was also featured in an episode of Animal Armageddon, where it was hunted by Staurikosaurus, one of the first true dinosaurs, into eventual extinction. In both, Desmatosuchus was used to contrast the anatomy of the earlier archosaur reptiles with that of the first true dinosaurs. It was also featured in the 2011 video game Dino D-Day: it was a playable Nazi class with brown skin and a 20 millimeter cannon mounted to its back. Several references are made in the game's dialogue that it is not technically a Dinosaur.


  1. ^ Parker, W.G. (2005). A new species of the Late Triassic aetosaur Desmatosuchus (Archosauria:Pseudosuchia). Compte Rendus Palevol 4(4): 327-340.
  2. ^ a b Palmer, D., ed. (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals. London: Marshall Editions. p. 96. ISBN 1-84028-152-9. 
  3. ^ Parker, W.G. (2008). Description of new material of the aetosaur Desmatosuchus spurensis (Archosauria: Suchia) from the Chinle Formation of Arizona and a revision of the genus Desmatosuchus. PaleoBios 28(1): 1-40.
  4. ^ Parker, W.G. (2007). Reassessment of the aetosaur “Desmatosuchus” chamaensis with a reanalysis of the phylogeny of the Aetosauria (Archosauria: Pseudosuchia). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 5(1): 41-68.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Julia B. Desojo, Martin D. Ezcurra and Edio E. Kischlat (2012). "A new aetosaur genus (Archosauria: Pseudosuchia) from the early Late Triassic of southern Brazil". Zootaxa 3166: 1–33. ISSN 1175-5334.