Newly discovered fossilized teeth, jaws and limbs belonging to a 210 million-year-old croc-like creature has shed new light on a prehistoric world.
After analyzing the remains of a ‘rauisuchians’ found in southern Africa, experts have determined that this ancient crocodile relative fed on vegetarian dinosaurs.
These findings have suggested that it was the extinction of these hunters that led to certain herbivore dinosaurs becoming dominate large land animals, as rauisuchians was their main predator.
Researchers have unearthed the remains of a ‘rauisuchians’ in southern Africa,which was found to prey on vegetarian dinosaurs. These findings suggest that following the extinction of this ancient crocodile relative, dinosaurs were free to become dominate large land animals
Rauisuchians are a distant relative of our modern-day crocodile and these ancient specimens are said to have been some of the largest carnivorous members of this group.
The creatures grew around 32 feet (10 meters) long and had a massive skull with a mouth full of serrated, curved teeth.
And researchers from the University of the Witswatersrand, Johannesburg are getting a glimpse of these croc-like carnivorous through the discovery of new fossils.
These predators fed on early herbivore dinosaurs and their mammal relatives living at the time, according to Wits Masters student Rick Tolchard.
‘These ancient fossils provide us with evidence of how at least two predator species hunted these vegetarian dinosaurs 210 million years ago,’ he said.
‘It is amazing to follow the clues left behind in fossilized teeth, jaws, limbs and other fossils to help us tell the ancient story of life in southern Africa.’
Newly discovered fossilized teeth, jaws and limbs belonging to a 210 million-year-old croc-like creature has shed new light on a prehistoric world
The study, published online in the Journal of African Earth Sciences last week, had also revealed that the rauisuchians were some of the latest-surviving members of their group, and that when they were alive, they were thriving close to the Antarctic Circle.
‘In the Triassic period, rauisuchians were widespread and their fossils are known from all continents except Antarctica,’ Tolchard added.
PREHISTORIC CROCODILES ‘RAN LIKE DOGS’ FROM PREDATORS
Prehistoric crocodiles were able to run around like dogs to escape the jaws of predatory dinosaurs.
This is according to a study published in 2014 that showed, for the first time, how the reptiles evolved in a dinosaur dominated world.
The study, by Bristol University, revealed how the jaws of the ancient crocodiles evolved to enable the fierce animals to survive in vastly different environments.
The team examined variation in the shape and biomechanics function of the lower jaws in over 100 ancient crocodiles during the Mesozoic – a period which began 251 million years ago and covered over 170 million years.
The study revealed that ancient crocodiles invaded the Jurassic seas and evolved jaws built primarily for water efficiency to capture agile prey, such as fish.
The research also found that variation peaked again in the Cretaceous period- 142 million years ago – where ancient crocodiles evolved a great variety of lower jaw shapes as they adapted to a diverse range of food.
After the devastating end-Triassic extinction event, crocodile ancestors invaded the seas and evolved jaws primarily built to efficiently swim in the water to catch agile prey such as fish.
They also evolved a great variety of lower jaw shapes during the Cretaceous Period – about 145 million to 65 million years ago – as they adapted to a diverse range of niches and environments alongside the dinosaurs, including eating plants.
‘They went extinct about 200 million years ago, paving the way for dinosaurs to become the dominant large land animals.’
The fossils have revealed what was feeding on those herbivorous dinosaurs and once the rauisuchians went extinct, the vegetarian dinosaurs were able to roam freely, without threat.