A new species of crocodile has been discovered about 95 million years old in Australia where researchers also discovered that it ate a dinosaur as a last meal.
Fossils of the crocodile species were first found in 2010, near the Winton Formation in eastern Australia, a rocky bed from the Cretaceous period when most of the known dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
Some of the crocodile fossils have been partially destroyed, but inside the fossils the researchers noticed several small bones that belonged to another animal. Now, researchers at the Australian Dinosaur Age Museum have identified those smaller bones as belonging to a dinosaur. Their findings were published in Gondwana Research Friday.
The freshwater crocodile, named Confractosuchus sauroktonos, which means “broken dinosaur killer,” was more than 8 feet long. However, Matt White, the museum’s co-author and principal investigator, said it could have grown even more. The researchers weren’t sure how the crocodile died so suddenly.
About 35% of the animal has been preserved as it lost its tail and limbs but had a nearly complete skull. The researchers then used X-rays and CT scans to see what bones were inside the remains.
The results showed that the remains belonged to a 4-pound juvenile ornithopod, a group of plant-eating dinosaurs that included duck-billed creatures. Ornithopod remains were also the first of their kind to be found in Australia, indicating that they are a newly discovered species.
What was left inside the crocodile’s stomach was one ornithopod bone “cut in half” and the other with a bite mark so severe that a mark was left on the teeth. This led researchers to believe that Confractosuchus “either killed the animal outright or quickly banished it after its death.”
“While Conractosuchus was not a specialist in eating dinosaurs, it would not have overlooked an easy meal, like the tiny remains of ornithopods found in its stomach,” White said.
The results were “extremely rare” because there are very few specific examples of dinosaurs being hunted, and this is the first time evidence that crocodiles ate dinosaurs has emerged in Australia. in August 2020, Researchers have discovered the fossils of ‘terrorist crocodiles’. It could wipe out large, “banana-sized” toothed dinosaurs.
“It is possible that dinosaurs formed an important resource in the Cretaceous ecological food web,” White said. “Because there are no globally comparable specimens, this prehistoric crocodile and its last meals will continue to provide clues to the relationships and behaviors of animals that inhabited Australia millions of years ago.”
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