When we think of thousands of years ago it can be easy to get confused. Game of Thrones is a completely fictional show despite many, many, people on the internet believing it is set during a certain period of history. Dragons are not real, there was never an animal that could breathe fire and fly through the air. Yet the inspiration for dragons and many stories like that in Game of Thrones does come from real life. Today we do have Komodo dragons that walk the Earth and in the past dinosaurs did roam the world. Yet humans and dinosaurs never coexisted. After the last dinosaur died out the world waited around 65 million years before humans showed up. A common question then is: is there anything alive today that did coexist with the dinosaur? The answer is an absolute yes! Back then there were small mammals like rodents and shrews that lived in the same era and still exist today. Snakes, bees, sharks, lobster, tuatara, turtles, cockroaches, and of course crocodiles all coexisted with the dinosaur.
The tuatara and the crocodile are arguably the closet thing we have to a dinosaur today. Crocodiles have been on Earth in some shape or form for 240 million years. Yet they were not like the ones that we are familiar with today. Although the animal has existed for 240 million years it has not remained the same, it too has been going through different evolutions at that time. The reality is that crocodiles during the Jurassic period were a lot bigger than they are today. When dinosaurs roamed the Earth, giant crocodiles did too. To date, we know of giant species such as the Sarcosuchus, Dryosaurus, Shieldcroc, and the Deinosuchus.
The Deinosuchus is an animal whose name roughly translates to ‘terror crocodile’. The animal was around ten meters in length and weighed about five tonnes. His teeth alone were the size of bananas (but not as soft). While these creatures are amazing little is known about them. Although there is plenty of fossil evidence to be analyzed the truth is that most people who study the Jurassic period are just more interested in dinosaurs. The crocodiles sometimes end up in the so what pile. Yet now a new journal has been published that sheds more light on these animals of terror.
The journal shows that these ancient crocodiles didn’t look anything like their modern evolution. In fact, technically they are far closer to being alligators than crocodiles but neither would be totally correct. While the far greater size is an obvious difference there is more to it than that. The Deinosuchus had a much fatter nose that two extra holes on the front of its nostrils. Researchers haven’t figured out why yet but it shows that the animal behaved differently and even breathed differently.
The experts involved in the study saw they now believe that these creatures were predators at the time of dinosaurs. In the past, it had been believed they were opportunistic eaters but this may change. They could have been selective predators. The study also showed that the Deinosuchus had a number of varieties as well with three species now identified across North America alone. It appears that a seaway separated the different species and allowed them to evolve in different ways.
The study shows that we still have a lot to learn about these ancient creatures. While dinosaurs will always be an exciting mystery that yearns to be solved there are many other mysteries out there that deserve to be solved too. For any budding paleontologists out there who are looking to make their name in the field why not spend some time away from dinosaurs for a while, you never know what you will find.