120 million-year-old crocodile 'may have walked like a dinosaur'

Rodiano Bonacci
Июня 13, 2020

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

The latest findings also help to shed new light on other sites in South Korea where scientists have previously found footprints that were originally thought to belong to giant pterosaurs-a group of prehistoric flying reptiles-walking on land, according to the researchers.

The researchers have been studying ancient fossilised footprints that they had initially attributed to pterosaurs but have since revealed that the prints were made by crocodiles that would have measured over three metres in length.

"The footprints measure around 24 centimeters [9.4 inches], suggesting the track-makers had legs about the same height as human adult legs".

Among the remains of some of the oldest terrestrially adapted crocodiles are large species that lived more than 200 million years ago (Triassic period), and some paleontologists think they may have been bipedal. "These were long animals that we estimate were over 3 m in length". "And while footprints were everywhere on the site, there were no handprints".

However, the trackways showed the animals to have a narrower stance than crocodiles.

The lack of any tail-drag marks further reinforced the scientists' suspicions and it became clear the creatures once walked bipedally. At first, the researchers assumed the tracks were made by one of the many dinosaurs that walked upright, but now they believe they were actually created by a crocodile whose arms never touched the ground.

The ancient crocodiles most likely would have walked flat on their feet, digging their heels into the earth much like humans do - leaving deep, narrow impressions.

He said: "Dinosaurs and their bird descendants walk on their toes".

The research, which was published in Scientific Reports, is based on almost 100 individual footprints of an ancient crocodile species that have been preserved in rock from 110 million years ago.

The newly discovered fossil prints were named Batrachopus grandis by the team.

They initially questioned the absence of hand impressions from the trackways, given that today's typical crocodiles are "four-legged" or quadrupedal. Dr Romilio said fossil crocodile tracks were quite rare in Asia.

"As an animal walks, the hind feet have the potential of stepping into the impression made by the hand and "over-printing" it, but we find no evidence of this at these Korean sites". The team says that the prints they do have are clear and well-formed, with fine details of toe pads and scales still preserved.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Scientific Reports. Whether this odd ancient species lacked the swimming prowess of other crocodile species is unknown, but that might help explain why they weren't able to "make it".

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