Ancient Crocodilians Ate Like Killer Whales
via Nature History Museum
Crocodiles are often thought of as living fossils, remaining unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. But scientists have shown this is not always the case and that 150 million years ago, their feeding mechanisms were more similar to some mammals living today, the killer whales.
An international team led by Dr Mark Young of the University of Edinburgh, and including Dr Lorna Steel at the Natural History Museum, studied two species of extinct marine dolphin-like crocodylians, Dakosaurus maximus and Plesiosuchus manselii. Their research is published today in the journal PLoS One.
Dakosaurus and Plesiosuchus were among the top predators living in the shallow seas that covered England around 150 million years ago. Their fossils were uncovered from Dorset and Cambridgeshire in England, and Germany.
The team reconstructed the skull and teeth of the two species and then compared them with living marine mammals and reptiles. Although Dakosaurus and Plesiosuchus had skulls more similar to the dinosaur T.rex, the results showed that their feeding patterns were more like mammals. In fact, they showed striking similarity to North Atlantic killer whales…
(images: fossils - Young et al. (2012), illustrations by Dmitry Bogdanov)