New Species of Crocodile Found With a Small Dinosaur in its Stomach

An+image+of+a+crocodile%2C+whose+related+species+preyed+on+small+dinosaurs.

via Pxfuel

An image of a crocodile, whose related species preyed on small dinosaurs.

Recently, in Queensland, Australia, paleontologists uncovered a 95-million-year-old skeleton. The skeleton was a previously undiscovered species of crocodiles. That’s not all, though, because to their surprise, they also found the remains of another dinosaur in its stomach. The crocodile was named Confractosuchus sauroktonos, meaning “broken dinosaur killer,” a fitting name. 

Matt White, an associate at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, led the expedition for the discovery. In 2010, White and a team of paleontologists came to the Winton Formation, a geological rock formation known to yield dinosaur bones. There, they were hoping to find some sauropod bones, but when a front loader, a bulldozer with wheels instead of a track, began removing the excess dirt due to the prospecting of the site, the crocodile fossil was found. After inspecting the fossil, they noted that the fossil had been damaged due to the front loader. However, the scientists also discovered that the crocodile was about eight feet long and noted that it could have grown larger. It turned out that it was also an undiscovered species and that it appeared to have a small dinosaur in its stomach. 

The bones of the crocodile and the small dinosaur were snuggly intertwined, forcing the researchers to use machines such as X-rays and CT scans, along with the technology of 3D computer modeling, which enabled them to inspect the fossils even further. They discovered that the dinosaur fossil was that of an ornithopod, a small herbivore that lived over 100 million years ago. “Ornithopods were very cute little dinosaurs, probably a little bit bigger than a chicken at about 1.2 kilograms,” according to White. They speculated that the ornithopod came up to the water bank only to be eaten by the crocodile. The crocodile’s bite force was able to snap its femur in half, leaving the other femur with the scar of a tooth mark. “While Confractosuchus would not have specialized in eating dinosaurs, it would not have overlooked an easy meal, such as the young ornithopod remains found in its stomach,” explained White. 

Something that still hasn’t been figured out yet is what happened to the crocodile’s tail. Even though the paleontologists could uproot most of the fossils, the tail was nowhere to be found. They theorize that a predator of the crocodile took a bite out of it, ultimately leading to its demise. 

The discovery made by White and his team gave an insight into what life could have been like 100 million years ago in the Australian ecosystem. The fossilized remains of the crocodile and the ornithopod can now be displayed at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum for everyone to appreciate.