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Among the most noteworthy phytosaurs were Rutiodon and Mystriosuchus.
Oddly enough, except for the characteristic location of their nostrils, phytosaurs looked more like modern crocodiles than the first true crocodiles did.
The earliest crocodiles were small, terrestrial, two-legged sprinters, and some of them were even vegetarians (presumably because their dinosaur cousins were better adapted to hunting for live prey).
Erpetosuchus and Doswellia are two leading candidates for the honorific of "first crocodile," though the exact evolutionary relationships of these early archosaurs are still uncertain.
Of all the reptiles alive today, crocodiles and alligators may be the least changed from their prehistoric forebears of the late Cretaceous period, over 65 million years ago--although the even earlier crocodiles of the Triassic and Jurassic periods sported some distinctly un-crocodile-like features, such as bipedal postures and vegetarian diets.
(See a slideshow of prehistoric crocodile pictures and profiles and 10 Prehistoric Crocodiles Everyone Should Know.) Along with pterosaurs and dinosaurs, crocodiles were an offshoot of the archosaurs, the "ruling lizards" of the early to middle Triassic period (needless to say, the earliest dinosaurs and the earliest crocodiles resembled one another a lot more than either resembled the first pterosaurs, which also evolved from archosaurs).
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What distinguished the first crocodiles from the first dinosaurs was the shape and musculature of their jaws, which tended to be much more deadly, as well as their relatively splayed limbs (as opposed to the straight, "locked in" legs of theropod dinosaurs).
It was only well into the Mesozoic Era that crocodiles evolved the three main traits with which they're associated today: stubby legs; sleek, armored bodies; and marine lifestyles.
And let's not forget the slightly smaller Deinosuchus, the "deino" in its name connoting the same concept as the "dino" in dinosaurs: "terrible" or "fearsome." These giant crocodiles probably subsisted on equally giant snakes and turtles; the South American ecosystem, on the whole, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Skull Island from .
One way in which prehistoric crocodiles were indeed more impressive than their terrestrial relatives was their ability, as a group, to survive the K/T Extinction Event that wiped the dinosaurs off the face of the earth 65 million years ago (why this is so remains a mystery, though it may be an important clue that no plus-sized crocodiles survived the meteor impact).
About 100 million years ago, toward the middle of the Cretaceous period, some South American crocodiles had begun to imitate their dinosaur cousins by evolving to enormous sizes.