Science

120 million-year-old crocodile 'may have walked like a dinosaur'

120 million-year-old crocodile 'may have walked like a dinosaur'”

However, an global team of researchers has discovered that certain species of ancient crocodiles walked on their hind legs like dinosaurs and grew up to a length of three meters.

They believe the footprints may have been made by a three-metre (10-foot) long crocodile ancestor - called Batrachopus grandis - that walked around "like a crocodile balancing on a tight-rope", according to Kyung Soo Kim from the Chinju National University of education.

Experts from South Korea, Australia and the United States analysed the well-preserved fossil tracks, which were found at the Sacheon Jahye-ri dig site in South Korea.

"The Korean trackways prove this hypothesis, at least for the Cretaceous Period", said co-author of the study, Anthony Romilio.

Paleontologists have been aware that certain species of crocodiles belonging to the "age of dinosaurs" had a larger adaptation to life on land when compared to their present-day relatives. The animals must have legs of approximately the same length as the legs of an adult human. However, they found no evidence to suggest the tracks were made by a "four-legged" crocodylomorph.

They measured over three meters (9.8 feet) in length, the findings indicate.

A person stands near the ancient bipedal crocodile it's body coming up to the person's waist
A reconstruction of ancient South Korean crocodile track-makers

While the scientists knew that they were dealing with an ancient reptilian species, they mistook it for that of a two-legged pterosaur.

The researchers first thought the similar-shaped fossilized footprints were from another ancient animal known as the pterosaurs, says Anthony Romilio, a paleontologist at the University of Queensland. Tracks also read the pattern of pads, showing foot bone structure and the tell-tale narrowness of trackways which show a bipedal gait, different from the sprawling posture of modern crocodiles.

'Dinosaurs and their bird descendants walk on their toes, ' he explained. "When combined with the lack of any tail-drag marks, it became clear that these creatures were moving bipedally", Prof.

"They were moving in the same way as many dinosaurs, but the footprints were not made by dinosaurs. Crocodiles walk on the flat of their feet leaving clear heel impressions, like humans do". There are even pathways in parallel that show that the crocodiles could have traveled in social groups, like their cousins the dinosaurs.

They initially questioned the absence of hand impressions from the trackways, given that today's typical crocodiles are "four-legged" or quadrupedal.

Photograph of trackways made by ancient South Korean bipedal crocodile track-makers. Dr Romilio said fossil crocodile tracks were quite rare in Asia. The team of palaeontologist trackers that made the discovery includes researchers from Korea, Australia, and University of Colorado Denver professor, Martin Lockley. "While an animal is walking, the hind legs have the potential to enter into the print made by the front and "sobreimprimirlas", but we did not find evidence of this on these sites koreans", he adds.

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