Cryptid Crocodile Found in Central Africa

 The West African slender-snouted crocodile is cousin to the newly-discovered Central African species.  (Image credit:    Heather Paul   /Flickr)

The West African slender-snouted crocodile is cousin to the newly-discovered Central African species. (Image credit: Heather Paul/Flickr)

A new species of crocodile discovered ranging from Cameroon to Tanzania on the African continent is said to be the first such species discovered since 1935.

The new species of slender-snouted crocodile, dubbed Mecistops leptorhynchus, was characterized in a study led by Florida International University researcher Matt Shirley and published October 24th in the journal Zootaxa.

Prior to Shirley’s research, the Central African slender-snouted crocodile was thought to be the same as its West African cousin, but a genetic divergence that occurred over eight million years ago led to a difference in genes that has provided the Central African crocodile its own place among species. Superficially, West African slender-snouted crocodiles have larger, rougher scales than their newly-discovered brethren, who are softer and smoother in appearance.

The separation of the two species has resulted in West African slender-snouted crocodiles being designated critically endangered, since there are now only about 500 left in the wild.

"We estimate only 10 percent of slender-snouted crocodiles occur in West Africa, effectively diminishing its population by 90 percent," Shirley said. "This makes the West African slender-snouted crocodile one of the most critically endangered crocodile species in the world."

Shirley’s hope, in addition to broadening mankind’s scientific knowledge, is that this discovery will bring attention to the plight of these endangered animals.

"We hope that this better understanding of slender-snouted crocodile evolution and taxonomy draws much-needed attention to the plight of this species, which has long been recognized as the least known crocodilian in the world," he said.



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