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Temporal range: Early Jurassic
Protosuchus richardsoni AMNH 3024 cast.jpg
A cast of Protosuchus richardsoni (AMNH 3024) in the American Museum of Natural History
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Clade: Pseudosuchia
Superorder: Crocodylomorpha
Family: Protosuchidae
Genus: Protosuchus
Brown, 1934
  • P. richardsoni (Brown, 1933) (type)
  • P. haughtoni (Whetstone and Whybrow, 1983)
  • P. micmac Sues et al. 1996
  • Archaeosuchus Brown, 1933 (preoccupied)
  • Baroqueosuchus Busbey and Gow, 1984
  • Lesothosuchus Whetstone and Whybrow, 1983

Protosuchus is an extinct genus of carnivorous crocodylomorph from the Early Jurassic. The name Protosuchus means "first crocodile", and is among the earliest animals that resemble crocodilians. Protosuchus was about 1 metre (3.3 ft) in length and about 40 kilograms (88 lb) in weight.

life restoration of Protosuchus
The skull of Protosuchus richardsoni (AMNH 3024)
The pelvis and hindlimbs of Protosuchus richardsoni (AMNH 3024)
Protosuchus richardsoni fossil AMNH 3024

As an early crocodilian relative, its skull featured more crocodilian characteristics than its earlier ancestors; it had short jaws that broadened out at the base of the skull, providing a large surface to which its jaw muscles could attach. This increased the maximum gape of the animal's mouth and the force with which the jaws could be closed. The dentition of the animal also resembled modern crocodiles, including the teeth in the lower jaw that fitted into notches on either side of the upper jaw when the mouth was closed.[1] It also possessed a powerful tail which later developed into a propulsion mechanism through water in its descendants.

The body was covered and reinforced by osteoderms in a double row along the back and covering the bottom of the body and the entire tail. It was an unusual quadrupedal reptile whose legs were columnar, with the rear legs longer than the front legs. Its five toes were clawed and it is believed that they were good runners and good swimmers.[citation needed]


Three species of Protosuchus have been described: the type species P. richardsoni [2] from Arizona, United States, P. micmac[3][4] from Nova Scotia, Canada and P. haughtoni [5] from South Africa.


  1. ^ Palmer, D., ed. (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals. London: Marshall Editions. p. 99. ISBN 1-84028-152-9.
  2. ^ "FossilWorks: Protosuchus richardsoni" , retrieved 26 Feb 2014
  3. ^ "Triassic-Jurassic faunal and floral transition in the Fundy Basin, Nova Scotia", Authors: Paul E. Olsen, Jessica H. Whiteside, Timothy Fedak, retrieved 26 Feb 2014
  4. ^ Gow, C. E. (17 April 2000). "The Skull of Protosuchus haughtoni, an Early Jurassic Crocodyliform from Southern Africa". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 20 (1): 49–56. JSTOR 4524063.
  5. ^ "FossilWorks: Protosuchus haughtoni", retrieved 26 Feb 2014