The presence of crocodile remains in the Miocene sandstone called "Pietra Leccese" (Apulia, Southern Italy) has been reported since the middle of the XIX century by Oronzo Gabriele Costa, and then by Giovanni Capellini and Pasquale Aldinio, who, altogether, referred the speciments to the following taxa: "Crocodilus" sp., Rhytisodon tuberculatus Costa, Streptospondylus Lyciensis Costa, Steneosaurus Lyciensis (Costa), Suchosaurus cultridens Owen and Tomistoma lyceensis Aldinio.
New fossils collected in the last 20 years allow to reconsider on a sounder basis the whole history of the crocodiles of the Pietra Leccese and to revise the taxonomic allocation of all the remains known so far.
The studied and revised materials belong to the collections of the "Museum of Environment" of Lecce (specimens # MAUL 972/1 and # MAUL 973/1) and to the "Giovanni Capellini" Museum of Bologna (specimens # 2-4511 and # 8880-1 RE 43).
The specimen MAUL 972/1 is by far the most representative being a partial skull associated with some vertebral fragments. Its diagnostic features can be summarised as follows: evident longirostry, maxillary teeth not homodont, splenials participating in mandibular symphysis, deep splenial symphysis probably longer that 5 alveoli and forming a narrow "V", symphysary surface of the splenials devoid of foramen intermandibularis oralis, dorsal edges of orbits upturned (not telescoped) and procoelous vertebrae. According to the phylogenetic systematic context recently proposed by Brochu, the listed features are typical of Tomistominae. Although the presence of some peculiar characters (the degree of upturning of the orbits, the presence of a small tubercle on the lacrimal, the slenderness of the teeth) could deserve the erection of a new taxon, taking into consideration the largely unknown intra- and interspecific variability of the Miocene Tomistominae, this specimen is simply referred at subfamily rank at the moment.
Anyway, the identification of a Tomistominae showing particularly slender and pointed teeth allows to cast doubts on the presence of Gavialis in the European Miocene, since the sole evidence of this group in Europe is represented by isolated teeth (from Portugal and France) with a similar morphology. The holotype of Tomistoma lyciensis (Costa) has not been located, however a cast is kept in the collections of the "Capellini Museum" in Bologna (specimen #2-4511). It does not show any feature allowing to confirm its specific status. Although rather different in general appearence and proportions from MAUL 972/1, it shows the same shape of the palatine-maxillary suture and is therefore tentatively referred to the same taxon.
Due to unfinished preparation, the specimen MAUL 973/1 is allocated at order rank, as well as some isolated teeth kept in the Bologna Museum (catalogue number 8880-1 RE 43).
The name Rhytisodon tuberculatus Costa has to be considered as a junior synonym of an odontocete squalodontid, while Tomistoma lyceensis Aldinio is a junior synonym of Tomistoma lyciensis (Costa), which seems to be a nomen vanum.