Today, crocodiles are found in tropical areas of Asia, Africa, Australia and North and South America, but over 200 million years of existence on Earth they have changed. Modern crocodiles can reach impressive sizes, especially in estuarine or saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus). Representatives of this species can grow up to 7 meters in length and weigh more than a ton. These amazing animals live more than 100 years. According to the results of a new study, the ancestors of modern crocodiles was even more amazing, as it walked on two legs. Who would have thought!
If you summarize the findings of the study, about 120 million years ago on the territory of modern South Korea wandering two-legged giant crocodiles the size of a Tyrannosaurus.
What do we know about crocodiles?
Let’s start with the fact that most modern people have seen crocodiles in the best case in the zoo and on television. We know that crocodiles belong to the order of secondary aquatic animals of the class of reptiles. They are large, lizard-like body elongated and flattened snout, and eyes, ears and nostrils located on the top of the head. Crocodiles are excellent swimmers, quickly move on the land and in most cases are a danger to humans, so willing to spend an hour in the company of a crocodile is hardly.
The closest relatives of crocodiles of all living organisms are birds, descendants of the sister branch of the archosaurs. Let me remind you that the archosaurs – a group of ancient reptiles that is represented today by the crocodiles. To extinct representatives of the archosaurs include dinosaurs, pterosaurs, etc. But why, the researchers decided that found in the study of fossilized footprints belong to the crocodile, and not the pterodactyl, for example?
According to a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, found fossilized traces of ancient crocodile, the researchers suggested that they could leave a pterosaur that belonged to the group of flying reptiles (and pterodactyls). But a detailed analysis of fossil footprints showed that they belong to a previously unknown relative of crocodiles.
It should be noted that this is the first evidence of the existence of bipedal crocodylomorpha. Crocodylomorpha is a diverse group that includes crocodiles and their extinct relatives. Fossilized bones of this strange crocodile no, but preserved in stone are dozens of tracks up to the age of 120 million years, and in one of the tracks even preserved the imprint of the skin.
The new species was named Batrachopus grandis. Discovered prints in size 18 to 24 cm suggests that the bodies of crocodiles at length reached nearly three meters. Apparently, the traces of the rear of this relative of the crocodile and demonstrate a clear pattern of walking from heel to toe.
Previous studies – for example, the work of 2015, showed that at least one such crocodylomorph lived on the territory of modern North Carolina 230 million years ago. The teeth of this ancient monster were like sharp blades that he used to attack prey. No wonder scientists call it Carnufex carolinensis, which means “the Butcher of the Carolinas”.
What life was like 100 million years ago?
We already told you about the amazing finds discovered in China, but the archaeological wonders increasingly caught the eye of scientists of the Korean Peninsula. As traces of a two-legged crocodile, found near the city Zingu, the previous finding in this area was the traces of a small jumping mammal known as Koreasaltipes jinjuensis, as well as the first known traces of turtles in this region. In fact, a series of the latest findings gives researchers an idea of what life was like on the planet 100 million years ago.
So, discovered fossil traces of the ancient crocodile give some clues about prehistoric life on the territory of South Korea. Since the modern understanding of the fossil record has changed, find tells researchers something about the pterosaurs: they may never have walked on two legs. As the authors of scientific work, most likely pterosaurs were quadrupeds.
The researchers also noted that for the first time received evidence that some of the giant crocodiles of the Cretaceous period was bipedal, and its structure reminiscent of carnivorous dinosaurs.
“Foot prehistoric crocodile was about as tall as an adult,” reads the statement co-author of the study Anthony Romilio, paleontologist from the University of Queensland in Australia.