Giant crocodiles walking on two legs like dinosaurs

Rodiano Bonacci
Giugno 12, 2020

A reconstruction of the ancient landscape of South Korea with crocodile track-makers.

A new study released today in Scientific Reports announced the surprising discovery of abundant, well-preserved 110-120-million-year-old footprints, belonging to a large bipedal ancestor of modern-day crocodiles from the Lower Cretaceous Jinju Formation of South Korea.

"At one site, the footprints were initially thought to be made by a giant bipedal pterosaur walking on the mudflat, we now understand that these were bipedal crocodile prints", Romilio says. The study suggests that footprints found previously, thought to have been made by giant pterosaurs walking on two legs, may have instead been made by ancient crocodile relatives.

Dr Romilio said: "The footprints measure around 24 centimetres, suggesting the track-makers had legs about the same height as human adult legs".

"It shocked us to learn that the trackways represent bipedal animals 3-4 meters long", said team leader Professor Kyung Soo Kim, Chinju National University of Education. "And although the footprints of the hind legs were everywhere on the site, there was no sign of the front", he says.

The scientists named the 18-24 cm-long tracks Batrachopus grandis, as they were significantly larger in comparison to the smaller Batrachopus variety that was commonly found in Jurassic North America.

While the researchers initially thought the tracks were those of an ancient pterosaur - a winged dinosaur that roamed Earth until 66 million years ago - they more likely belonged to a particularly large and previously undiscovered member of the crocodylomorph family.

An artist's impression of a bipedal crocodile in the ancient landscape of South Korea
An artist's impression of a bipedal crocodile in the ancient landscape of South Korea

A reconstruction of ancient South Korean crocodile track-makers.

'Oddly, our trackways are very narrow looking - more like a crocodile balancing on a tight-rope'. This, plus the lack of markings of drag of the tail, it was obvious that these creatures were moving, so the biped. "They were moving in the same way as many dinosaurs, but the footprints were not made by dinosaurs", Kim says.

This is unheard of because although paleontologists knew that some of the crocodiles of the dinosaur era were more adapted to life in the land that their relatives modern, these were small animals about a meter long, with footprints showing that they walked on four legs. The impressions could not have been the work of dinosaurs, as these are walking on tiptoe, and the creatures that passed through it is supported in the heel, as humans do.

'Dinosaurs and their bird descendants walk on their toes, ' he explained.

"They even have the fine details of the toe-pads and scales on their soles preserved".

However, the marks reveal the animals would have had a narrower stance compared to the crocodiles we may have seen in pictures, videos or the zoo. According to Dr. Romilio, it is rare to find fossilized crocodile tracks in Asia.

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