Research reveals anatomy of Australia’s ancient crocodiles
About 13.5 million years ago, an exceptionally small species of crocodile roamed Queensland, Australia. And a new paper Posted in The anatomical file and The Journal of Anatomy says analysis of the species’ skull reveals new findings about its size, shape, and roost.
Study a strange little crocodile
Although there are only two species with tangled teeth – the saltwater crocodile and the freshwater crocodile – in Australia today, an amazing variety of ancient crocs once ruled Queensland. In fact, these species came in a variety of sizes and shapes and settled into a variety of niches outside of traditional swamps and marshes.
“If we could time travel to North Queensland 13 million years ago, not only would you have to watch out for crocodiles at the water’s edge, but you would also have to make sure you didn’t step on them. on it in the forest,” says Steve Salisbury, lead author of the study and professor of paleontology at the University of Queensland, in a Press release.
In an effort to uncover new information about these ancient fangs, Salisbury and a team turned their attention to a small species known as the Trilophosuchus rackhami. Known only from its fossilized skull, this long-extinct species is shrouded in secrets.
“It was a really unique looking crocodile, with a short snout and three distinct ridges on top of its skull,” said Jorgo Ristevski, lead study 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 T.rackhami remained under four pounds and three feet long throughout its adult life, a size “that was very small compared to most current crocs,” Ristevski said in a press release.
Additionally, the team’s analysis showed that the species’ skull also had a unique shape, indicating that T.rackhami spent his time surveying land rather than water.
“I digitally reconstructed the brain cavity of [T. rackhami] and discovered that it resembled that of some remote and potentially terrestrial extinct crocodiles from Africa and South America,” Ristevski said in a press release. “This may indicate that [T. rackhami] spent more time on earth than most living crocs.”
Ultimately, the researchers say their findings provide insight into the anatomy and activity of ancient crocodiles. They could also contribute to new research on the evolution of extinct crocodilians in the future.