CHICAGO – Imagine meeting a crocodile with huge tusks like those of a wild boar.
Paleontologist Paul Sereno did meet one, or at least the remains of the ancient creature, and he gave a crowd of excited youngsters a first public glimpse Saturday.
Sereno calls it boar-croc for its looks, since he hasn't yet published an article on it with a scientific name in the official literature.
The University of Chicago researcher found the skull in the Sahara Desert, which many thousands of years ago was moist and supported all sorts of animals, crocodiles and even in the distant past dinosaurs.
Boar-croc doesn't fit in any known order. It has a crocodile-like snout, but adds horns and three sets of canine teeth like those of a wild pig adapted for eating meat, he explained.
So why does a world-renowned paleontologist trot out his latest find before an official publication?
Saturday was family day at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Sereno couldn't resist the chance to try and interest youngsters in his line of work.
Recalling himself as not the best of students, Sereno founded Project Exploration to try and interest city youths and girls in careers in science by making science resources available outside of the classroom.
The big smiles and eager questions indicate he has found a fertile audience.