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Temporal range: Late Cretaceous–Eocene
Champsosaurus natator.jpg
C. natator skeleton
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Order: Choristodera
Family: Champsosauridae
Genus: Champsosaurus
Cope, 1877
  • C. albertensis
  • C. ambulator
  • C. gigas
  • C. laramiensis
  • C. lindoei
  • C. natator
  • C. tenuis
  • C. annectens Cope, 1876 [nomen vanum] (type)
  • C. australis Cope, 1881 [nomen vanum]
  • C. brevicollis Cope, 1876 [nomen vanum]
  • C. inelegans Parks, 1933 [nomen vanum]
  • C. inflatus Parks, 1933 [nomen vanum]
  • C. profundus Cope, 1876 [nomen vanum]
  • C. puercensis Cope, 1882 [nomen vanum]
  • C. saponensis Cope, 1882 [nomen vanum]
  • C. vaccinsulensis Cope, 1876 [nomen vanum]

Champsosaurus is an extinct genus of diapsid reptile belonging to the order Choristodera.


Restoration of C. natator

It grew to about 1.50 m (5 ft) long,[1] though C. gigas, the largest species, reached 3-3.5 m (10–12 ft) in length.[2] Champsosaurus vaguely resembled a gharial and, like gharials, it was primarily aquatic, catching fish with its long, tooth-lined jaws. It probably swam with lateral body movements, pinning its limbs against its body to increase its streamline, just like crocodiles and the Marine Iguana. Behind the eyes, Champsosaurus's skull was very wide, where powerful jaw muscles were attached.[3] It was so specialized to life in the water that only females could come ashore to lay eggs, while males could not move on land.[4]


Its fossils have been found in North America (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, New Mexico, Texas,[5][6] Colorado, and Wyoming) and Europe (Belgium and France), dating from the Upper Cretaceous to the mid Eocene. Its name means "crocodile lizard"; "Champso-" was taken from an Ancient Greek author's statement that "The Egyptians call the crocodiles χαμψαι [champsae]." Possible Champsosaurus teeth have been found in East Timor, making them exceptional in being the only Gondwanan and Australasian choristoderes known.[7]

Neonate sized Champsosaurus have been documented in the scientific literature.[8]


  1. ^ D.Lambert, D.Naish and E.Wyse 2001, "Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and prehistoric life", p. 77, Dorling Kindersley Limited, London. ISBN 0-7513-0955-9
  2. ^
  3. ^ Lambert, et al. (2001).
  4. ^ Yoshihiro Katsura, Fusion of sacrals and anatomy in Champsosaurus (Diapsida, Choristodera), doi:10.1080/08912960701374659
  5. ^ Lehman, T.M., and Barnes, K., 2010, Champsosaurus (Diapsida: Choristodera) from the Paleocene of West Texas: paleoclimatic implications: Journal of Paleontology, v. 84, p. 341-345. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
  6. ^ Lehman and Barnes (2010).
  7. ^ J. H. F. Umbgrove, Structural History Of The East Indies
  8. ^ Tanke, D.H. and Brett-Surman, M.K. 2001. Evidence of Hatchling and Nestling-Size Hadrosaurs (Reptilia:Ornithischia) from Dinosaur Provincial Park (Dinosaur Park Formation: Campanian), Alberta, Canada. pp. 206-218. In: Mesozoic Vertebrate Life—New Research Inspired by the Paleontology of Philip J. Currie. Edited by D.H. Tanke and K. Carpenter. Indiana University Press: Bloomington. xviii + 577 pp.