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Crocodiles were Once ‘Vegetarians’ Says New Study

Keegan Melstrom, a Doctoral student at the University of Utah who conducted the research along with his supervisor Randall Irmis said, “What is really fascinating about this is a lot of these teeth are unlike anything we see today”.

Crocodiles were Once ‘Vegetarians’ Says New Study

Crocodiles are quite often described as the living fossils, because of their close resemblance to their predecessors, who once roamed around the earth at the time, when the dinosaurs lived on earth. Now a recent study has revealed that the crocodiles, which are considered violent as well as, carnivorous were vegetarians and lived on plants during the Mesozoic Era.

The new study that is published in the Cell Press Journal this week, has elaborately described the eating habits of the crocodile. During the study, the researchers have done, fed high-res scans of 146 teeth from 16 extinct species crocodiles into a computer model and determined that, unlike their modern progeny who are renowned for their ferocity, some early crocodyliforms lived together peacefully and were vegetarians.

Keegan Melstrom, a Doctoral student at the University of Utah who conducted the research along with his supervisor Randall Irmis said, “What is really fascinating about this is a lot of these teeth are unlike anything we see today”.

Melstrom also quoted some of his previous work heterodonty in mammals and his own early observations about the teeth differences in reptiles to determine what tooth complexity reveals about diet.

Melstrom said, “Some were similar to living crocodylians and were primarily carnivorous, others were omnivores, and still others likely specialized in plants”. He also added that they lived on different continents and at different times.

Unlike their semiaquatic descendants, the crocodiles that lived entirely on land and had legs under their bodies. Some of these crocodile species probably looked much like the modern-day alligators or crocodiles, but some of them were smaller in size. Melstrom also says, “And I kind of think of these ones as a hairless, armored dog or cat”.

It will remain a mystery, what evolutionary pressures ultimately led the crocodyliforms to adopt plant-centric diets and how this habit disappeared in the course of time turning them into carnivores.

Initially, Melstrom believed that an absence of mammals had led them toward herbivory, but while doing the research he found that some of the crocodile species lived along with mammals and proto-mammals, while others did not.

Melstrom says, now from his one thing is clear that the people can now clearly understand that, they’ll stop thinking of crocodiles as ‘living fossils’. As he adds, “that term masks this really dynamic evolutionary history where there are a huge array of body types and ecologies where they live, how they live. And this research shows on top of that there is a huge diversity in diet”.

Keegan Melstrom now plans to investigate what are the factors, which have led the crocodyliforms to diversify their diets in their origin, and how it has changed now. For this purpose, the researchers have to reconstruct the ecosystems according to the time when these species lived, in a period which was started some 250 million years ago and ended about 55 million years ago. It is also the time, which witnessed enormous changes in the climate of the earth, flora and fauna.


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