Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ancient Galloping Crocodile

Updated (December 2, 2009)
"Fossil hunters unearth galloping, dinosaur-eating crocodiles in Sahara"
"The primitive crocodiles, which lived 100m years ago, were good swimmers but were also capable of galloping across the plains" (November 19, 2009)

"Fossil hunters have uncovered the remains of primitive crocodiles that "galloped" on land and patrolled the broad rivers that coursed through north Africa one hundred million years ago.

"The skeletons of five creatures that walked with dinosaurs – and ate them – were unearthed in remote and rocky regions of what are now Morocco and Niger during a series of expeditions in the Sahara desert.

"Three of the crocodiles are new species and include Kaprosuchus saharicus, a 6.5m-long beast with three sets of dagger-like tusks and an armoured snout for ramming its prey...."

Another crocodilian fossil was of a yard-long critter that - apparently - ate plants and maybe grubs. And, had buck teeth.

Then, there's this critter:

(From, used w/o permission)
"Artist's conception of one of the crocodiles, which had a soft, dog-like nose and was an agile galloper. Photograph: Todd Marshall/National Geographic"

A dog-like nose. That got me to thinking: maybe this should be called a dogodile? A crocodog?

And, yes: it's possible to make an educated guess from bones, and how similar creatures are put together, what sort of a nose a fossilized skeleton had. It's the same sort of reconstruction that forensic anthropologists do, when people come across a human skeleton - and are trying to figure out who it was.

The new fossils are a pretty big deal for paleontologists:

"...The most striking feature the beasts have in common was revealed by their bone structure, which suggests they were efficient swimmers, but when they clambered ashore they were also capable of galloping across the plains. Modern crocodiles crawl on their bellies because their legs sprawl out to the side....."

Crocodiles today are good swimmers, but not at their best on land: since their legs stick out to the side. The ability of these contemporaries of the dinosaurs to do well on land and in the water may help explain why they left descendants that look a bit like them, and the dinosaurs didn't.

I know: quite a few "dinosaurs" were at my hummingbird feeder this summer: but birds have something like 60,000,000 years' worth of adaptation for flight - and don't look much like the dinosaurs they seem to be descended from.

The Guardian article ends with a link to the National Geographic special coming up, "When Crocs Ate Dinosaurs," coming up this Saturday: November 21, 2009. Appropriately enough, since it was a National Geographic-sponsored expedition that found the fossils.

More-or-less-related posts: Or, click "dinosaurs" or "paleontology" in the Label Cloud.

Since "everybody knows," in America, at least, that science and religion get along about as well as mongoose and cobra, and since some regular readers may have learned that I'm a Catholic (that's right - one of those people), this might be a good place to put links to this post: And these, from another blog, A Catholic Citizen in America: More about the new crocodilians:


Brigid said...

That is almost too awesome to be real.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...



I know what you mean. I've seen a photo of the fossil: and that illustration is a fairly reasonable educated guess, IMO.

Looks to me like another example of how the world as-we-know-it isn't the only possible world.

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