Phytosaurs are a basal group of reptiles that are the sister group to the archosaurs which includes the dinosaurs and crocodylomorphs. They evolved in the mid Triassic period and survived to the early Jurassic for unknown reasons. When Phytosaurus was first discovered in the early 1850's. The scientist that discovered them saw that its teeth were blunt and serrated like plant eaters so he gave it the name Phytosaurus which means ''plant lizard''. This is because its teeth LOOKED blunt for crushing plants when in reality they were chipped off and worn down from when they were sharp!
Phytosaurs were all carnivores that probably did not like plants very much. It would be unreasonable for it to be a plant eater when it was perfectly evolved to be a predator because its teeth were conical for biting fish, not blunt for crushing plants. it also was ot adapted for eating plants on the bottom of its river or lake because it would not be able to uproot them because of their long snouts. Their body was also not large to digest large quantities of plants and extract every possible nutrients from them. Instead they were developed for breaking down meat in the same way crocodilians are today.
They may seem similar to crocodiles in body shape, eating habits and overall looks but they are not the same thing and have quite a few differences if one looks close enough at them. Firstly modern crocodilians like the mugger have nostrils situated at the end of their snout but phytosaurs have their nostrils located on a crest-like protrusion above their head not dissimilar to the future brachiosaurs. This may be so they they can have their eyes above the surface of the water and their rostrum completely submerged and still be able to see AND breathe perfectly fine. This indicates a lifestyle highly evolved for water and for ambush! They also had a much more primitive ankle structure than crocodiles because they would have been mostly restricted to pushing themselves along the ground with their legs as crocodiles to today. There is one phytosaur that felt like this was not its thing. This one phytosaur left tracks or ichnofossils that suggested that it too high-walked like crocodiles do today when they are feeling mammalian. This genus was called Apatopus. This was one of the only phytosaurs that is known to have had an erect gait during its life suggesting that they were more evolved than we originally thought.
Phytosaurs were probably the dominant aquatic carnivores of the triassic and some even grew bigger than the land carnivores. Redondasaurus gregorii was the largest known phytosaur of the Triassic and probably even one of the largest carnivores in the Triassic. This monster grew up to anywhere between 9-12 metres in length and could grow to this size because there were large dicynodonts around to prey on. This
phytosaur would have been a scary sight for the little dinosaurs and proto-mammals at the time. The only challenge for this beast would be other Redondasaurus since it was the largest carnivore in its area or possible even country! There were also other large phytosaurs such as Rutiodon that grew over 7 metres long. These phytosaurs were safe from predation except from other bigger members of its own species since all the large rauisuchians lived in North and South America. Since phytosaurs evolved before true crocodylomorphs it is actually the crocodylomorphs that are like the phytosaurs which are in turn like the temnospondyls of the Carboniferous
- Redondasaurus gregorii
- Redondasaurus bermani
- Angistorhinopsis ruetimeyeri (possible junior synonym)
- Angistorhinus grandis
- Arganarhinus magnoculus
Are just a few of the species of phytosaur that lived through the Triassic.
Phytosaurs were the first large, reptilian, aquatic carnivores to exist being from the mid-Triassic before true crocodyliformes evolved in the late Triassic
They were the largest freshwater predators of the Triassic. Not in the oceans where truly fearsome and large ichthyosaurs lived and not North and South America where large Rauisuchians ruled and they didn't live on land where carnivores like Liliensternus ruled.