(ORDO NEWS) — ‘It’s just extraordinary’: An ancient crocodile’s last meal may have been a dinosaur Australian scientists claim they have discovered a new species of crocodiles, and dinosaurs could be its last food.
A crocodile dubbed the “Broken Dinosaur Killer” was found at a sheep station in the outback of Queensland and is thought to be over 95 million years old.
When they were collecting the fossilized crocodile, the researchers said they made a startling discovery – a partial remains of a young ornithopod dinosaur was found inside its stomach.
It’s just extraordinary,” said researcher Matt White of the Australian Age of Dinosaur Museum.”This is the first time a crocodile has been found with the remains of a dinosaur in its stomach,” Dr. White said.
“This is the first case in the world.”The fossil was first discovered by paleontologists near Winton in 2010 and took more than six years to study.
These are the first ornithopod skeletal remains found in the region and the first evidence that crocodiles ate dinosaurs in Australia.
“This prehistoric crocodile and his last meal will continue to provide clues about the relationships and behavior of animals that inhabited Australia millions of years ago,” Dr White said.The find also provides evidence that dinosaurs were an important part of the Cretaceous food web.
“Dinosaurs were not at the top of the food chain, but were part of a complex web of mammals, pterosaurs, birds and crocodiles,” he said.
What we have been able to demonstrate is direct evidence of a food source [crocodiles] and that they could eat anything that came close enough.”
There is evidence that ornithopods, which were small herbivores with beaks and cheeks full of teeth, roamed the Earth over 100 million years ago.
“Ornithopods were very cute little dinosaurs, maybe a little bigger than a chicken – about 1.2 kilograms,” says Dr. White.They looked like the Ducks from The Land Before Time.
“You can imagine poor little Ducky crawling onto the beach and then a crocodile swims up to him and bites him.”Dr. White said the bones were too fragile to be removed from the ground in the usual way, so the researchers used new technology to piece together an x-ray image of the fossil.
The scanned data files were then used by Dr. White to digitally prepare the specimen – a process that can take several months – so that a 3D reconstruction of the bones can be made.
“The technology we’re using has breathed new life into what we can see in these fossils,” Dr. White said.
It’s possible that there are other fossils around the world that actually have stomach remains, and this new technology could help us discover them.””It will change the way things are done.”
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