DELFINO M., 2001. The fossil record of the Italian Crocodylomorpha. Abstracts "6th European Workshop on Vertebrate Palaeontology", Florence-Montevarchi, Italy, September 19-22 2001: 28.

The history of the Italian palaeoherpetology probably starts with a letter, published by Giovanni Arduino in 1765, quoting the presence of some crocodile remains in northeastern Italy. Since then, the record of the Italian Crocodylomorpha, as well as that of the rest of the herpetofauna, has grown considerably: crocodilian remains have been recovered from more than 40 localities ranging from Middle Jurassic to late Miocene-early Pliocene in age.
Thanks to the activity of several renowned Italian palaeontologists like Aldinio, Capellini, Costa, Lioy, Lovisato, Pantanelli, Ristori, Sacco and de Zigno, the study of these remains flourished around the second half of the 19th century. Owing to the relatively poor knowledge of the taxonomy, morphology and variability of the fossil and living crocodiles, new taxa were created on almost each remnant that was reasonably well preserved, leaving room for debates and critiques.
In the last decades, the holotypes of Capelliniosuchus mutinensis SIMONELLI (n.g. n.s.), Eridanosaurus brambillae BALSAMO-CRIVELLI (n.g. n.s.), Gavialis mutinensis PANTANELLI (n.s.) and Rhytisodon tuberculatus COSTA (n.g. n.s.) have been identified as not belonging to crocodilians and they are now considered to be, respectively, a mosasaur, a rhinoceros, an ichthyosaur and, probably, an odontocete.
Although a modern revision of all the fossil record is still lacking, the following genera are thought to have occurred in Italy: Allognathosuchus, Asiatosuchus, "Crocodylus", Diplocynodon, Doratodon, Megadontosuchus, Metriorhynchus, Pristichampsus, Steneosaurus and Tomistoma.
It is worth mentioning that the presence of living crocodiles in historical times has been reported for some Italian regions (Lombardy, Tuscany and Sicily; Anderson, 1898; Cordier, 1986) and that their present absence has been considered as a proof of the recent impact that humans had on the crocodile distribution (Markwick, 1998). The lack of fossil remains in all the palaeontological sites younger than the late Miocene-early Pliocene, linked to the fact that almost all the remnants of this "monsters" were -and sometimes still are- stored and displayed in churches, suggests to prudently consider these reports as legends and the crocodiles remnants as relics exhibited in order to attract the believers.

Anderson J., 1898. Bernard Quaritch, London, 371 pp.
Arduino G., 1765. Giornale d'Italia, 1: 204-206.
Cordier U., 1986. Sugarco Edizioni, Milano, 272 pp.
Markwick P.J., 1998. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, 137: 205-271.

Front page

Massimo Delfino - 2001 / Earth Science Department - Florence University - Italy / revised September 2001