Jurassic era crocodile named after Motörhead′s Lemmy | News | DW | 09.08.2017
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Jurassic era crocodile named after Motörhead's Lemmy

For a century scientists thought the large carnivore Lemmysuchus was directly related to crocs of its time. But new research has concluded it was only a distant relative, thus needing its own name.

Take some heavy metal addicted paleontologists and mix in a giant prehistoric crocodile needing a name and you get a "Lemmy" - as in Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, the late singer of heavy metal band Motörhead.

The sea-dwelling croc from the Jurassic era was formally dubbed "Lemmysuchus obtusiden" - Latin for Lemmy's crocodile - by scientists at London's Natural History Museum, according to the museum's website.

The dinosaur-era reptile - from about 164 million years ago - was by some accounts considerably larger than today's salt-water crocs.

"With a meter-long skull and a total length of 5.8 meters (19 feet), it would have been one of the biggest coastal predators of its time," said Michela Johnson, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh who helped untangle Lemmysuchus's identity.

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The Croc Business

"It would have been one of the largest coastal predators of its time," researchers from the Natural History Museum said in a statement. "The teeth were large and blunt, perfect for crushing prey such as turtles."

That is one aspect that separates it from its relatives who had longer snouts and thinner teeth for catching fish. 

Lemmy the croc

The Lemmy croc was unearthed in Peterborough in the UK - 85 miles (135 km) north of London - about a century ago. Scientists originally believed it belonged to a known family of sea crocodiles from that area, but it turns out they were wrong.

Scientists had misunderstood the exact relationship between Lemmysuchus and its close relatives, and they previously assigned some other fossil finds to the same species. But researchers recently preformed a more detailed anatomical comparison of all the bones and discovered that while some bones were from the same species as Lemmysuchus, most were from its relatives.

This cleared up past confusions, and necessitated a new name for the distinct species.

Since the carnivore belonged to a unique group it "needed a new scientific name," according to the statement.

"Natural History Museum curator Lorna Steel was still mourning the demise of her favorite band, and suggested that it should be named after her musical hero."

"Although Lemmy passed away at the end of 2015, we'd like to think that he would have raised a glass to Lemmysuchus, one of the nastiest sea creatures ever to have inhabited the Earth," the statement quoted Steel as saying.

Lemmy, a chain-smoker who boasted of drinking a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey every day and once claimed to have slept with more than 1,000 women, died in December 2015 at the age of 70 in Los Angeles.

He formed the Motörhead heavy metal band in 1975.

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