General, Research, Technology

Why have crocodiles barely changed since the days of the dinosaurs?

Crocodiles are among the most ancientcreatures on our planet. Scientists are still discovering the fossilized remains of ancient representatives of this order. Some of them are estimated to be 200 million years old, meaning they even lived in the Jurassic period, during the time of the dinosaurs. Judging by the remains, over millions of years, these toothy creatures have hardly changed. Ancient crocodiles had an elongated muzzle, a body covered with scales, a powerful tail and a gait characteristic only for them. Modern crocodiles have the same features, and this proves that they have hardly evolved. Scientists for a long time could not explain the reason for this unusual phenomenon. Researchers from the University of Bristol (UK) started looking for an answer to this question. In the course of studying the skeletons of ancient crocodiles, they came to very interesting conclusions.

It might seem that crocodiles hardly evolve. But this is not the case.

Evolution of crocodiles

The results of their study werepublished in the scientific journal Nature Communications Biology. As part of their scientific work, they first studied the shape and size of the body of ancient creatures. According to study author Maximilian Stockdale, it was especially important for them to clarify body size, because this indicator determines such important parameters as:

  • the growth rate of animals;
  • the amount of food required for development;
  • the size of their population;
  • the likelihood of extinction.

Based on this data, the researchers were able toto recreate the evolutionary process of crocodiles over several million years. It turned out that throughout the history of the Earth, crocodiles follow the model of evolution, referred to as "discontinuous equilibrium". This means that at one point the animals found the ideal body structure for themselves and maintain it until nature forces them to adapt to new conditions. Apparently, the fall of the meteorite and ice ages did not become particularly significant phenomena for crocodiles, and even during these difficult periods they did not change. Crocodiles evolve, but this process is very slow. And all because they have no reason for rapid evolution. Body structure is already perfect for their lifestyle.

Crocodile evolution is slow because there is no reason for rapid change

In the future, scientists plan to continue studyingthe evolution of crocodiles, because they have many open questions. For example, they are interested in what features helped the crocodiles survive the fall of the meteorite that destroyed the dinosaurs. They also want to find out what caused the extinction of some species, because before there were much more varieties of crocodiles than now. At the moment, there are about 30 species of crocodiles and their representatives slightly differ from each other in appearance. They also live in different parts of our planet.

Read also: The largest frog in history could eat dinosaurs

Dangerous predators

Of course, the survival of crocodiles is not relatedonly with the structure of their body. In addition to good adaptation to different environmental conditions, these creatures are dangerous predators. They swim great in water, but they also have ways to run fast on land. In 2019, scientists found that some crocodile species can run at a gallop, which helps catch up with prey. According to Scientific Reports, in this way they can accelerate to 18 kilometers per hour. Inside their oral cavity is a complex array of numerous teeth that differ in shape, size, and function. Some species attack people without thinking. Perhaps it is because of their danger that they have earned the status of one of the most revered animals in the world.

You can read about how crocodiles run in this material.

Crocodiles are usually found in tropical regions.Earth. They are found in large numbers in South America, Africa and China. They can feed on both aquatic inhabitants and animals coming to the watering hole. But some species feed exclusively on fish. For example, gavials adhere to such a diet, because they have a very narrow jaw and spend almost all their time in water. They get out on land only to bask in the sun and lay their eggs.

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The evolution of crocodiles is relatively recentan interesting article was written by my colleague Lyubov Sokovikova. She said that the very ancient ancestors of modern crocodiles could walk on two legs and looked like dinosaurs. It turns out that in some periods of time crocodiles still very quickly evolved - apparently, this was demanded by nature. You can read more about crocodiles walking on two legs at this link.