Ancient crocodiles from Africa have swum across the Mediterranean to live in Spanish coastal waters, according to a new study.
Scientists have described fossils of two crocodiles about 10 feet (3 meters) long, which probably scattered several times in the Mediterranean basin and colonized Spain and Italy about five million years ago.
Analysis of their skull bones, isolated teeth and osteoderms – bone plaque on the skin – suggests that they belong to the species crocodylus checchiai, from ancient Libya and Kenya in Africa.
Their remains were excavated in Venta del Moro near Valencia, Spain between 1995 and 2006, but are only now described in the Journal of Paleontology.
The fossils at this site in Valencia are the first crocodiles ever found on the Iberian Peninsula, a landmass consisting of Spain and Portugal.
They “unequivocally” support the theory that crocodiles dispersed from Africa to Europe during the late Miocene period about six million years ago, according to paleontologists.
A crocodile to a mastodon of the genus Anancus and primitive horses of the genus Hipparion in an environment similar to what Valencia could have been six million years ago
“Our comparisons show that this material apparently does not belong to diplocinodon or tomistoma – the only two other crocodiles described so far for the European period of the late Miocene,” said Angel Hernandez Luhan of the Autonomous University of Barcelona and his team.
“Probably this late Miocene species, originally described by Libya and later identified in Kenya, may have spread repeatedly in the Mediterranean basin and colonized the southern Mediterranean.
“What is most certain is that it would also inhabit the coasts of Murcia and Andalusia, although we cannot rule out that it would also be scattered along the coasts of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands.
Millions of years ago, several species of crocodiles of different genera and characteristics inhabited Europe and sometimes even coexisted.
But it was thought unlikely that crocodiles of the genus crocodylus, which is of African descent, ever lived in the Mediterranean basin.
The artist’s impression of the extinct species crocodylus checchiai, known to have originated in Africa, although the remains have been identified in Europe
Details of fossils of two crocodiles found at the Venta del Moro site in Valencia, Spain, excavated by researchers at the University of Valencia between 1995 and 2006.
Not only do the remains found in the study disprove this, but the discovery of two partial individuals instead of one may indicate that an entire population was present in the area.
During their “colonization”, reptiles spread to the southern Mediterranean, as suggested by the Italian regions, where fossils had also been found before – in Gargano, Tuscany and Skontron – over the past few decades.
European Late Miocene crocodile habitats, including Venta del Moro, were at that time close to the northern shores of the Mediterranean and were therefore easily accessible from seawater.
Photos and linear drawings of the remains of a crocodile skull from Venta del Moro. Analysis of the skull bones, isolated teeth and osteoderms (bone plaque on the skin) suggests that they may belong to the species crocodylus checchiai
This idea will be supported by the behavior of modern crocodiles, which are good swimmers and can even reach 19 miles per hour (32 km per hour) in the water.
An example of this is the current saltwater crocodile (crocodylus porosus), which can make significant raids on the high seas to colonize other islands or other continents between Oceania and Southeast Asia.
“You just have to look at how easily it moves on the high seas to be seen in the waters of the Solomon Islands or even in French Polynesia,” says the paleontologist.
More images from the scientific work. Images one to four show the right angular (jawbone) five to 12 show teeth, 13 to 16 show joints, 17 to 20 vertebrae and 21 to 22 osteoderms – scaly deposits
Due to its anatomical resemblance to American crocodiles, the extinct species crocodylus checchiai may be the ancestor of modern saltwater species.
This suggests that crocodiles were able to cross the Atlantic during the Miocene, which would explain the emergence of the genus in America.
Therefore, in the case of the specimens found in Venta del Moro, “swimming from the African to the European continent” should not mean much effort for them before they reach the peninsula, “the researcher concluded.
The researchers acknowledged that the remains of the two specimens were too fragmented for convulsive identification because they were of the species crocodylus checchiai.
But the morphology of the remains of the Venta del Moro crocodile “is consistent with the genus of crocodiles,” the researchers said.
WHAT WAS THE TERM OF CROCODILE EVOLUTION?
250,000,000 BC – Xylushuh
Three feet long. 5-10kg. He lived in the swamps of East Asia. They ate small animals. Comb of fan-shaped “sails” on their backs. Divide into prehistoric crocodiles and early dinosaurs.
228 000 000 BC – Phytosaurus
Alive in the early Jurassic period. Most related to crocodiles. Herbivores. They looked a lot like modern crocodiles, except that their nostrils were at the top of their heads, not at the tips of their muzzles.
200,000,000 BC – Erpetosukh
Bipeds. It did not resemble modern crocodiles in behavior or body shape, except for the shape of their head.
110,000,000 BC – Sarkozy
Middle credit period. 40 feet long. 10-15 tons. They ate dinosaurs and fish. He lived in the rivers of Africa. Strange bulge on the snout. It looked and behaved like modern heirs, but it was twice as long and about 10 times heavier.
100,000 BC – Stomatosuchus
36 feet long. ten tons. It eats plankton and krill with its high pelican-like jaw.
80,000,000 BC – Beinozuh
Greek for a terrible crocodile. He lived in the rivers of North America. About 33 feet long and 10 tons. They were 6 feet. long skull. Fed on fish, shells and terrestrial creatures. Fossil evidence suggests that they attacked large North American tyrannosaurs.
70,000,000 BC – Champsosaurus
Five feet long, 25-50 pounds, he ate fish and lived in the rivers of North America and Western Europe. Long narrow profile and toothed snout. It survived the extinction of the Paleogene Cretaceous, which killed three-quarters of the Earth’s plant and animal species, including dinosaurs.
65,000,000 BC – Credit-Paleogene extinction
Non-bird dinosaurs have been wiped out, and more than half of the world’s species have been wiped out. This mass extinction paved the way for the rise of mammals and the emergence of humans.
55,000,000 BC – Crocodiles (modern crocodile)
The modern crocodile – including salt water, the Nile and American variants – is spreading around the world. Although it looks prehistoric, it is a highly developed and complex organism that is a successful predator.
23,000.00 BC – Kinkana
Nine feet long, 500 pounds. Consumed red meat in forests. Long curved teeth and long legs, unlike the short legs of the modern crocodile. These crocodiles are constantly declining due to changes in the environment.
4,200,000 BC – Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni
This is a very close relative of the modern crocodile. A large skull and a small raised edge in front of the eyes. He probably prayed to the early people. He lived in the Turkana Basin in Kenya. It may be the largest real crocodile known.