Badass Prehistoric Crocodile Named After Lemmy From Motörhead

Lemmy, the iconic singer and bassist of Motörhead died in 2015 but now lives on as a fearsome prehistoric croc. Jessica Branstetter/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

It didn’t live on a diet of cigarettes and whiskey, nor was it particularly good at playing the bass guitar. Nevertheless, this newly described genus of "prehistoric crocodile" is such a tough guy scientists have named it after Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, the fast-playing and hard-living frontman of the band Motörhead, who passed away in 2015.

Lemmysuchus obtusidens, aka Lemmy’s blunt-toothed crocodile, was one of the most fearsome predators to swim off the British coastline around 164 million years ago during the Middle Jurassic Period. It belonged to a family known as teleosauridae, an extinct family of crocodile-like marine reptiles that were once distributed throughout the world’s oceans.

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

Paleontologists unearthed a skull and some other bones of this specimen in 1909 at a clay pit quarry near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire in the UK. However, it was initially mistaken for a Steneosaurus, another genus of extinct crocodile-like animal, due to its elongated and tubular snout. Several decades later, its place on the teleosaurid family-tree became the subject of hot debate (arguing about the validity of species and genus is a favorite pastime of paleontologists).

The most metal crocodilian to have stalked the seas. © Mark Witton/Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

A recent re-examination of the specimen’s fragmented remains by an international team has untangled its true identity, as revealed in their study published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. Analysis of its near-complete skull, partially-complete skeleton, and its blunt teeth showed that the specimen was not like the other crocodilians from the site.

They confirmed it was a totally new genus and it was honored with a new scientific name, Lemmysuchus obtusidens, which comes from the Latin for blunt (obtusus) and tooth (dens).  

“Although Lemmy passed away at the end of 2015,” added Lorna Steel, an NHM curator who worked on the study, “we'd like to think that he would have raised a glass to Lemmysuchus, one of the nastiest sea creatures to have ever inhabited the Earth.”

Judging by the artist's rendering of the late Lemmysuchus, which wouldn’t look out of place on the sleeve of a metal album (the pattern on its head was inspired by the band's Snaggletooth logo), we're pretty sure Lemmy would approve.


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