A new chapter in the award-winning Natura Gold series introduces palaeontology, in recognition of South Africa’s significance to this field and study of plant and animal fossils. In this first instalment of the palaeontology-themed coins, the focus is on "Rise of the Dinosaurs – Archosauria" over the five 24ct gold coins.
The Archosauria - crocodiles, pterosaurs, dinosaurs and birds - were magnificent beasts which ruled over the land and sky for 180 million years, from the Triassic to the Cretacecous periods. The Archosauriforms evolved at the end of the Triassic, finally taking over the last enclaves of synapsid domination.
Each coin in this set depicts a different Archosauriform, together with its scientific name, the word "Natura", the denomination, mass and metal value of the coin.
Erythrosuchidae were Archosauriforms found in South African and Namibia over the late Triassic period. The Erythrosuchus africanus was approximately 5 m long and stood over 2m tall, making it the largest predator of the time. The Erythrosuchidae would have been at the top of the food pyramid, preying on all other terrestrial vertebrates.
The Erythrosuchus had an exceptionally large skull for its size, occupying approximately a fifth of its total body length. Its teeth were as large as that of any large carnosaur, but curved like those of other Archosaurimorphs, suggesting that they preyed upon large prey animals which were difficult to subdue. This creature walked on all fours with a semi-erect gait, which would have enabled it to move more swiftly than other more primitive reptiles of the same size. It would still have been a cumbersome animal given its size, and for that reason it was thought to be an ambush predator.
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