A Brazilian scientist has made a groundbreaking discovery by identifying fossils of a diminutive crocodile-like reptile that existed during the Triassic Period, several million years before the emergence of dinosaurs. The fossilized remains of this predator, named Parvosuchus aurelioi, were found in southern Brazil. The remains include a complete skull, 11 vertebrae, the pelvis, and some limb bones. Paleontologist Rodrigo Muller from the Federal University of Santa Maria in Rio Grande state reported this discovery, with the research published in the journal Scientific Reports. Parvosuchus, which translates to “small crocodile,” lived approximately 237 million years ago. It was a terrestrial predator about one meter in length and preyed on smaller reptiles. Parvosuchus belonged to the extinct family Gracilisuchidae, a group previously known only from Argentina and China. According to Muller, the Gracilisuchidae are exceptionally rare in the fossil record and are particularly intriguing because they existed just before the dawn of dinosaurs.

Parvosuchus represents an early branch of the Pseudosuchia lineage, which eventually gave rise to modern crocodiles. This reptile lived during a period of significant evolutionary innovation following Earth’s most catastrophic mass extinction event, which occurred 252 million years ago. During this time, various reptile groups were competing for dominance before the dinosaurs eventually took over. The Gracilisuchidae family, to which Parvosuchus belongs, saw its last undisputed members die out about seven million years before the first dinosaurs appeared. Muller stated that the discovery of Parvosuchus aurelioi enhances understanding of prehistoric diversity and offers vital insights into the evolution of crocodiles and dinosaurs. This finding highlights the importance of ongoing paleontological research in uncovering Earth’s complex history.