Prodiplocynodon is an extinct genus of basal crocodyloid crocodylian. It is the only crocodyloid known from the Cretaceous and existed during the Maastrichtian stage.[1] The only species of Prodiplocynodon is the type species P. langi from the Lance Formation of Wyoming, known only from a single holotype skull lacking the lower jaw.[2]

Temporal range: Late Cretaceous
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Crocodilia
Superfamily: Crocodyloidea
Genus: Prodiplocynodon
Mook, 1941
Type species
Prodiplocynodon langi
Mook, 1941

The skull was collected by the American Museum Expedition of 1892 from exposures near the Cheyenne River in Niobrara County. It was described by Charles C. Mook of the American Museum of Natural History in 1941.[2] The generic name means "before Diplocynodon" because Mook saw close similarities between the holotype skull and that of the alligatoroid Diplocynodon from the Eocene of Europe.


Most of the cranial sutures that outline individual bones of the skull are not visible in the holotype, and are often obscured by cracks. However, the overall shape of Prodiplocynodon is similar to that of basal alligatoroids.[1] Many of the features seen in Prodiplocynodon are common among eusuchians. The skull is short and triangular, being around 50 centimetres (20 in) in length. The orbits, or eye sockets, are quite large and subtriangular. The teeth are short and somewhat sharp, and in comparison to modern crocodiles show little variation. The orbits face directly upwards, but this may have been the result of slight compression in the holotype skull. The external nasal aperture, the opening for the nostrils, is very large. There is a constriction at the point of contact between the premaxilla and maxilla which would have been an area of reception for a large mandibular tooth. In Prodiplocynodon, the constriction is not deep, being intermediate between that of Alligator and Crocodylus.[2]


Mook suggested that Prodiplocynodon may be ancestral to alligatorids and crocodylids because it possessed features of both families. However, Mook also noted that some of the features observed in Prodiplocynodon that are also found in modern crocodylians may be the result of evolutionary convergence.[2] More recently, Prodiplocynodon was proposed to be an alligatorine.[3][4]


Phylogenetic position of Prodiplocynodon
Wu et al. 1996[5]






Brochu 2000[6]










Prodiplocynodon was not included in a phylogenetic study until 1996. In that study, Prodiplocynodon was excluded from the Alligatorinae because it lacked all seven of the unequivocal synapomorphies that were proposed for the clade. According to the 1996 study, characters that exclude Prodiplocynodon from Alligatorinae include the presence of a distinct lateral constriction between the premaxilla and maxilla, a contact between the nasal and lacrimal, and the lack of posterior massive crushing teeth. The 1996 analysis considered Prodiplocynodon to be the sister taxon to the Alligatorinae rather than the Crocodylinae because in Prodiplocynodon, the jugal-lacrimal suture is much shorter than the ventral border of the orbit. However, the authors of the study mentioned that this character is also seen in some derived crocodylines, and is lost in some ingroups of Alligatorinae.[5]

More recent phylogenetic studies have indicated that Prodiplocynodon is a crocodyloid. Brochu (2000) placed Prodiplocynodon as a basal member of Crocodyloidea along with Asiatosuchus.[6] This was also the case for Brochu & Gingerich, who conducted their own phylogenetic study which resulted in Prodiplocynodon and Asiatosuchus being basal members of Crocodyloidea.[7] The same result occurred in the phylogenetic analysis of Hua & Jouve (2004).[8] In all three analyses, the topology of the trees is essentially the same for basal crocodyloids, as shown below:


Prodiplocynodon langi

Asiatosuchus germanicus

Crocodylus affinis

Dormaal crocodyloid

Crocodylus acer

Brachyuranochampsa eversolei




*Note: Tomistominae, which includes the extant False Gharial, is sometimes considered to be a gavialoid lineage on the basis of genetic evidence.[9][10]


  1. ^ a b Brochu, C. A. (2003). "Phylogenetic approaches toward crocodylian history" (PDF). Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. 31: 357–97. doi:10.1146/
  2. ^ a b c d Mook, C. C. (1941). "A new crocodilian from the Lance Formation" (PDF). American Museum Novitates. 1128: 1–5.
  3. ^ Steel, R. (1973). "Crocodilia". Handbuch der Paläoherpetologie. Stuttgart and Portland: Gustav Fischer Verlag. pp. 116pp.
  4. ^ Carroll, R. L. (1988). Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution. New York: W H. Freeman and Company. pp. 698pp.
  5. ^ a b Wu, X.-C.; Brinkman, D. B.; Russell, A. P. (1996). "A new alligator from the Upper Cretaceous of Canada and the relationships of early eusuchians" (PDF). Palaeontology. 39 (2): 351–375. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-09-28.
  6. ^ a b Brochu, C. A. (2000). "Phylogenetic relationships and divergence timing of Crocodylus based on morphology and the fossil record". Copeia. 2000 (3): 657–673. doi:10.1643/0045-8511(2000)000[0657:pradto];2.
  7. ^ Brochu, C. A.; Gingerich, P. D. (2000). "New tomistomine crocodylian from the middle Eocene (Bartonian) of Wadi Hitan, Fayum Province, Egypt" (PDF). Contributions from the Museum of Paleontology: The University of Michigan. 30: 251–268.
  8. ^ Hua, S.; Jouve, S. (2004). "A primitive marine gavialoid from the Paleocene of Morocco". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 24 (2): 341–350. doi:10.1671/1104.
  9. ^ Densmore, L. D.; Owen, R. D. (1989). "Molecular systematics of the order Crocodilia". American Zoologist. 29 (3): 831–841. doi:10.1093/icb/29.3.831.
  10. ^ Brochu, C. A. (2004). "A new Late Cretaceous gavialoid crocodylian from Eastern North America and the phylogenetic relationships of Thoracosaurs". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 24 (3): 610–633. doi:10.1671/0272-4634(2004)024[0610:anlcgc];2.

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