Cranial anatomy of the mekosuchine crocodylian Trilophosuchus rackhami Willis, 1993

Jorgo Ristevski, Vera Weisbecker, John D. Scanlon, Gilbert J. Price, Steven W. Salisbury

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One of the best-preserved crocodylian fossil specimens from the Cenozoic of Australia is the holotype of the mekosuchine Trilophosuchus rackhami, from the middle Miocene (13.56 ± 0.67 Ma) Ringtail Site at Riversleigh, northwestern Queensland. Although lacking most of the snout, the holotype skull of T. rackhami (QMF16856) has an exceptionally well-preserved cranium. Micro-CT scanning of the holotype has allowed for all the preserved cranial bones to be digitally disarticulated, facilitating an unprecedented insight into the cranial anatomy of not just T. rackhami, but any mekosuchine. Trilophosuchus rackhami was a small-bodied crocodylian and one of the most morphologically distinct mekosuchines, characterized by a unique combination of cranial characteristics several of which are exclusive to the species. Fossil material that is definitively referrable to the species T. rackhami is currently known solely from the middle Miocene Ringtail Site. However, an isolated parietal from Hiatus Site at Riversleigh demonstrates that Trilophosuchus also occurred during the late Oligocene (~25 Ma), extending the range of the genus by more than 10 million years. The new description of T. rackhami also allowed for a reevaluation of its phylogenetic relationships. Our results reaffirm the placement of T. rackhami as a member of Mekosuchinae within the subclade Mekosuchini. In all analyses, Mekosuchinae was consistently found to be monophyletic and part of the larger crocodylian clade Longirostres. However, the assignment of Mekosuchinae as a subset of Crocodylidae is brought into question, suggesting that the status of Mekosuchinae as a subfamily should be reconsidered.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages59
JournalAnatomical Record
Early online date12 Aug 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Aug 2022


  • Crocodylia
  • Longirostres
  • Mekosuchinae
  • Mekosuchini
  • Trilophosuchus


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