New crocodile genus is named for UI researcher

New crocodile genus is named for UI researcher

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Chris Brochu is honored for his research
crocodile illustration
An artist's conception shows Brochuchus pigotti in a lifelike position. Drawing by Jack Conrad.

When a team of paleontologists recently announced the discovery of a new species of giant lizard, they named it for 1960s rock legend Jim Morrison.

(See story at: now.uiowa.edu/2013/05/ui-researcher-and-colleagues-discover-new-species-ancient-asian-lizard.)

Image of associate professor Chris Brochu in his office at the UI
Chris Brochu

Similarly, when another group of researchers uncovered new information about a species of crocodile, they renamed it Brochuchus pigotti, thereby assigning it to a newly created genus of species called Brochuchus—the name honoring Chris Brochu, associate professor in the University of Iowa Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and internationally recognized crocodile expert.

Their paper is published in the May 7 online issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

“It was quite a surprise. It took a few minutes to sink in,” says Brochu.

Jack Conrad, assistant professor of anatomy at NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine and lead author of the paper, says the following in a posting on Facebook: “Christopher Brochu has devoted his professional life to illuminating crocodylian evolution. My co-authors and I are so happy to show our respect for his achievements, even in this humble way.”

The crocodile discussed in the journal article was first described in the 1970s as Crocodylus pigotti. After finding more material representative of the crocodile, the authors found that it wasn’t really a part of the genus Crocodylus, so they reassigned it to a new genus, Brochuchus.

The crocodile itself is relatively small. Brochuchus pigotti lived some 18 million years ago near Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya, and was more closely related to extant dwarf crocodiles than to larger crocodiles.

In May 2012 Brochu published an article in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology describing his discovery of the largest known true crocodile. It lived between 2 and 4 million years ago in Kenya and, at 27 feet or more in length it was at least six feet longer than the largest recorded modern-day Nile crocodile.

Brochu named that crocodile, Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni, for the late John Thorbjarnarson, famed crocodile expert and Brochu’s colleague who died of malaria while in the field several years ago.

Contacts

Gary Galluzzo, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0009

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