About 13.5 million years ago, an unusually small species of crocodile roamed Queensland, Australia. and a new paper published in the anatomical record other the anatomy journal says analysis of the species’ skull reveals novel findings about its size, shape and territory.
Studying a strange little crocodile
Although there are only two species of crooked teeth, the saltwater crocodile and the freshwater crocodile, in Australia today, an amazing diversity of ancient crocodiles once ruled Queensland. In fact, these species came in a variety of sizes and shapes and settled in a variety of niches outside of traditional bogs and swamps.
“If we could travel back in time to North Queensland 13 million years ago, you would not only have to watch out for crocodiles at the water’s edge, you would also have to make sure you don’t step on them in the forest.” says Steve Salisbury, lead author of the study and professor of palaeontology at the University of Queensland, in a Press release.
In order to discover new information about these ancient crocodiles, Salisbury and a team turned to a small species known as Trilophosuchus rackhami. Known only from its fossilized skull, this long-extinct species is shrouded in secrets.
“This was a truly unique looking crocodile, with a short snout and three distinct ridges on the top of its skull,” says Jorgo Ristevski, the study’s lead author and paleontology researcher at the University of Queensland, in a press release. .
In the analysis, the team used state-of-the-art imaging techniques to surmise that Trackhami It remained less than four pounds and three feet long throughout its adult life, a size “that was very small compared to most crocs today,” Ristevski says in a news release.
Furthermore, the team’s analysis showed that the species’ skull also had a unique shape, indicating that Trackhami he spent his time traversing terrestrial rather than aquatic regions.
“I digitally reconstructed the brain cavity of [T. rackhami] and found that it resembles that of some potentially terrestrial and distant extinct crocodiles from Africa and South America,” says Ristevski in a press release. “This may indicate that [T. rackhami] spent more time on land than most living crocodiles.
Ultimately, the researchers say their findings provide insight into the anatomy and activity of ancient crocodilians. They could also contribute to future research on the evolution of extinct crocodilians in the future.