October 20, 2023
BANGKOK – The new species of reptile has been called Alligator munensis, or the “Mun River Alligator”.
The alligator fossils were discovered in Non Sung district, Nakhon Ratchasima, about 300 kilometres northeast of Bangkok.
The fossilised skull, jaws and other parts of the ancient creature were examined by a research team from the University of Tübingen in Germany, along with the Department of Mineral Resources and Chulalongkorn University.
The researchers also checked the Non Sung fish pond where the fossils were found but discovered only bone fragments that were unsuitable for study.
However, their close examination of the nearly complete alligator skull fossil yielded an astonishing revelation: they had stumbled upon a previously unknown alligator species.
This species is believed to have existed no later than the Middle Pleistocene period, approximately 230,000 years ago.
The newly discovered alligator was officially named in honour of the Mun River, which flows close to the site where the fossils were discovered.
Alligators bear a resemblance to crocodiles but can be distinguished by their U-shaped snout, as opposed to the slender, V-shaped snouts of crocodiles.
An intriguing characteristic that sets Mun River Alligators apart from other alligators is their wider and shorter snout, along with a higher skull. Their nostrils are also positioned further away from the snout’s tip.
Additionally, tooth sockets that are larger and fewer in number suggest that these alligators had larger teeth suited for crushing crustaceans, including freshwater molluscs. Judging from the skull size, researchers estimated the Mun River Alligator grew to 1-2 metres in length.
There are two living alligator species – the American (Alligator mississippiensis) and the Chinese (Alligator sinensis).