Prehistoric Crocodiles Might Have Walked on Two Legs
Photo credit: Anthony Romilio
From the popular mechanics
Newly discovered petrified traces from South Korea could indicate that prehistoric crocodile ancestors were mainly bipeds.
The finding could also prove that traces found in another South Korean location may have been the same crocodylomorph and not a pterosaur as previously thought.
A new paper in Scientific Reports describes crocodylomorph traces that indicate that crocodile ancestors walked on two legs - similar to some dinosaurs. The only thing that is more scary than a crocodile that comes after you is a crocodile that chases two hind legs.
The researchers analyzed trace fossils of large traces of Lower Cretaceous Batrachopus that have been incredibly well preserved in the South Korean Jinju Formation. The fossils show "narrow-gauge" traces - manus traces are noticeably missing - measuring between 7 and 9.5 inches, indicating that the crocodylomorph could reach a body length of approximately 10 feet. The trackmaker also left an imprint on his skin, which can be seen in these fossil photos.
Photo credit: Kim et al.
In addition, researchers say that due to fossil evidence and the lack of manusprints, the traces are unlikely to be "made by four-legged friends who only appear bipedal." Although the traces appear to have been made by a land animal, the researchers do not rule out that the crocodylomorph had a certain aquatic talent.
According to Martin Lockley, one of the paper's co-authors and a professor at the University of Colorado, the tracks, which are between 110 and 120 million years old, reveal a lot about the Jinju lineup.
"You can read the whole ecology [of the website]," says Lockley. And that's exactly what he did. It was Lockley who identified the tracks when Kyung Soo Kim, the lead author of the paper, asked him what he thought she had done. There was speculation that fossils were made by pterosaurs who went ashore, but Lockley knew right away that this was not the case.
"I saw right away that they were Batrachopus," says Lockley.
Lockley's keen eye also illuminates mysterious traces, which are believed to have been made by pterodactyls in Gain-ri, another South Korean location. It appears that any animal that made the Gain-ri traces could have been a smaller Batrachopus specimen and not a pterodactyl that carefully moves through the mud so as not to end up with dirt-covered wings.
The researchers hope to find more fossil evidence in the area to unequivocally prove that these traces were actually made by bipedal crocodylomorphs that developed either full or semi-terrestrial tunnels.
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