Crocodile Ancestors :
Crocodiles are one of the most fearsome predators on the planet that rule the water world. These largest reptiles once had ancestors that walked on 2 legs just like us.
Crocodile walking on 2 legs…?
This fact surprised the paleontologists as the fossilized footprints of Crocodylomorpha were discovered accidentally while excavating a site for construction on the South Korean coast last year. Upon Carbon-dating, the fossilized tracks on the bedrock were estimated to be 100 million years old.
The fossil was taken to the Chinju National University of Education for further studies and was analyzed by Kyung Soo Kim, a paleontology professor.
Initially, he concluded that the tracks were of a Pterosaur, one of the biggest flying reptiles that ruled the skies of the dinosaur-era.
But he was still skeptical about it and in late 2019, he invited his colleague, Martin G. Lockley, a fossil specialist from the University of Colorado Denver to study the fossil more deeply.
On careful analysis, Lockley confirmed that the tracks were of an undiscovered species, most probably a prehistoric ancestor of today’s crocodiles that walked on only 2 limbs.
“I was very surprised, and I did not believe him at first. But he was right. The tracks prove they were bipedal.” Dr. Kim said in a report.
Image credit: Anthony Romilio/The University of Queensland
Image source: sciencenews.org
These prehistoric crocodiles are unlike any of today’s crocodilians which move on all 4 limbs. The paleontologists according to their gathered evidence stated the footprints were found in regular formations and for the hind limbs were perfectly defined from heel to toe.
And there were no tracks of the front limbs of these ancient crocodiles, confirming they were indeed bipeds.
Based on the tracks’ size, it’s estimated these creatures were roughly 9ft long from tail to snout. Their heads probably raised a meter or so from the ground making them easily spot see any animal from a distance.
They most likely lived alongside the dinosaurs and were not the dominant species of that time. The track path of this ancient crocodile was found narrow and well defined, unlike today’s crocodile tracks where the feet would be splayed more to the outside.
Few may argue that these animals may be wading through water hence the front limb prints might be absent.
Dr. Lockley confirmed that if these prehistoric beings (crocodile) swam through the water, there would only be the tracks of the front claws of their hind limbs as they pushed their body along, and definitely not the heels.
The fossilized tracks had completed footprints, in some cases, the impression of the reptile’s skin was also visible.
He said that the tracks were in exact shape to the footprints of another crocodylomorph that lived over 200 million years ago which was about the size of a domestic cat.
“All we’ve done is find exactly the same type of track 100 million years later with 2 different sizes,” Dr. Lockley stated. There wasn’t any boned fossil found in the area. The report was published in Scientific Reports.