Thursday, March 7, 2013

This ISN’T how you want to be discovered

This ISN’T how you want to be discovered

A new herbivorous species from the Cretaceous period has been discovered, but perhaps in an unlikely place: in the stomach of an ancient crocodyliform.

According to “diagnostic cranial material,” the prey is an unnamed species, and further details will be released in a soon-to-be published paper. I’ve only heard it described as an ornithopod.

Furthermore, paleontologists are certain the little critter was croc lunch by evidence of bite marks on the bone joints, as well as a crocodyliform tooth still embedded in a dinosaur femur (leg bone).

Professor Clint Boyd of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology says the newborn hatchlings “had it coming from all sides,” suggesting that there were many predators vying to snap up a chick whenever possible.

This crocodyliform had particular success in its final meal.

The clustering of the particular types of bones also suggests that the croc, shortly before he was killed (leading to its fossilization), it ate quite a few of these little animals.

“Maybe it was closer to a nesting ground where baby dinosaurs would have been more abundant, and so the smaller crocodyliforms were hanging out there getting a lunch,” Prof Boyd said.

“This is the first time that we have definitive evidence that you had this kind of partitioning, of your smaller crocodyliforms attacking the smaller herbivorous dinosaurs,” says Clint.

Harsh – nobody’s heard of you, but the first thing they’re going to know is that you let your kids wander around getting snapped up by crocodiles. Well, I think this story “sort of” has a little redemption for this unmonikered mother.

Fossilization is an amazing thing – for all the billions of life forms that have existed on this planets’ entire history, a pittance of them have become viable fossils. It is tremendously unlikely that a specimen should be fossilized, and this is a particularly fascinating example that shows a crocodilyform’s final meal.

Know what I think happened? 

I think after this croc slugged back a bunch of babies, he was overfed and unable to sneak away without detection.

Before the crocodile had a chance to digest all the little chicks he’s snapped down like little Peepers, the mother spotted the bandit and stomped him silly, squashing him into fossil fodder, leaving him buried in the Grand Staircase Escalante-National Monument in Utah for us to find 60-something million years later.

Hope it was worth it.


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