About 95 million years in the past in what’s now Australia, a large crocodile relative clamped down with its highly effective jaws on the small physique of a dinosaur and gulped practically all of it down in a single mighty swallow. The crocodilian died quickly after, and because it fossilized, so did the partly-digested and near-complete dinosaur in its stomach.
The wee dinosaur was a younger ornithopod — a largely bipedal herbivore group that features duck-billed dinosaurs. These are the primary bones of an ornithopod to be discovered on this a part of the continent, and the animal could also be a beforehand unknown species.
Scientists not too long ago found the stays of the traditional croc predator — and its well-preserved final meal — within the Nice Australian Tremendous Basin, at a web site relationship to the Cretaceous interval (about 145.5 million to 65.5 million years in the past). Although the croc fossil was lacking its tail, hind limbs and far of its pelvis, its cranium and plenty of bones from the remainder of its physique had been intact; it measured over 8 ft (2.5 meters) lengthy when it died and would seemingly have grown much more huge had it lived, the researchers reported in a brand new research.
They dubbed the crocodile relative Confractosuchus sauroktonos (kon-frak-toh-SOO’-kus saw-rock-TOH’-nus), which is a mouthful (very like the dinosaur that the enormous crocodilian swallowed nearly complete), however that is as a result of it contains a variety of details about the fossil. The cumbersome identify — a brand new genus and species — interprets from phrases in Latin and Greek that collectively imply “damaged crocodile dinosaur-killer,” based on the research. “Dinosaur-killer” got here from the fossil’s intestine contents, whereas “damaged” refers back to the stony matrix surrounding the fossil, which shattered throughout excavation in 2010 and revealed smaller bones contained in the croc’s stomach, based on an announcement launched by the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton, Queensland.
Crocodilians first coexisted with dinosaurs starting within the Triassic interval (251.9 million to 201.3 million years in the past), and prior proof means that they discovered some dinosaurs to be scrumptious. Tooth marks on fossilized dinosaur bones (and in a single case, a tooth embedded in bone) trace that some crocodilians dined on dinosaurs, both searching them or scavenging their stays. However paleontologists hardly ever discover preserved intestine contents in crocodilians, maybe as a result of their guts contained powerfully corrosive acids, as do these of contemporary crocodiles. This new discover offers the primary definitive proof exhibiting that dinosaurs had been eaten by big Cretaceous crocs, the scientists reported Feb. 10 within the journal Gondwana Analysis.
As a result of the small dinosaur’s bones had been too fragile to take away from the rock round them, the researchers scanned the croc’s stomach with X-ray computed tomography (CT) units after which created digital 3D fashions of the fragile bones. They calculated that the ornithopod weighed practically 4 kilos (1.7 kilograms). A lot of the dinosaur’s skeleton was nonetheless linked after it was swallowed, however because the dinosaur-killer munched its meal, it bit down so laborious that it broke one of many ornithopod’s femurs in half, and it left a tooth embedded within the different femur, the researchers reported.
Whereas the croc’s abdomen contents present that its final meal was a small dinosaur, the predator seemingly snapped up different Cretaceous animals, too. Nonetheless, dinosaurs had been most likely an everyday a part of their weight-reduction plan, based on the research.
“It’s seemingly dinosaurs constituted an essential useful resource within the Cretaceous ecological meals internet,” lead research writer Matt White, a analysis affiliate on the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, mentioned within the assertion. “Given the shortage of comparable world specimens, this prehistoric crocodile and its final meal will proceed to supply clues to the relationships and behaviours of animals that inhabited Australia hundreds of thousands of years in the past.”
Initially printed on Reside Science.