By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Crocodylians with teeth the size of bananas roamed the Late Cretaceous Period, NPR reported Wednesday. These enormous creatures had been previously discovered but are newly pieced together and understood by recent study. They would have terrorized the dinosaurs.
According to NPR, a reptilian animal of nightmarish proportions stalked the late Cretaceous Period. “Enormous ‘terror crocodiles’ once roamed the Earth and preyed on dinosaurs, according to a new study revisiting fossils from the gigantic late Cretaceous crocodylian Deinosuchus,” the article said.
“The research reiterates that Deinosuchus were among the largest crocodylians ever in existence, reaching up to 33 feet in length. New in this study is a look at the anatomy of Deinosuchus, which was achieved by piecing together various specimens unknown until now, giving a fuller picture of the animal.”
One researcher claimed Deinosuchus had teeth as large as bananas. The article confirmed that new fossils show that it had the head size and jaw strength to eat its pick of prey, “including large dinosaurs.” This is no small feat considering the evolutionary wonders of dinosaurs as we know them.
Do They Make Sneakers That Big?
One of the most important traits a dinosaur could have had in fleeing from a Deinosuchus would have been its ability to flee from such a predator. Records of biped dinosaurs show that mobility served as a microcosm for evolution as a whole. How do we know they were such excellent runners?
“One way, which ties in directly with body fossils, is looking at limb proportions and modifications of the hands for grasping,” said Dr. Anthony Martin, Professor of Practice in the Department of Environmental Studies at Emory University. “This is an example of how natural selection favors one trait at the expense of another. In ancestors of dinosaurs, this inverse proportion shows up as a lengthening of the femur, tibia, and fibula and foot bones, which corresponded with a shortening of the forelimb bones.”
Furthermore, Dr. Martin said, another example is when dinosaur legs began to have shortened femurs while the tibia and fibula became longer. He said that a shorter femur meant that each leg could cycle more quickly through a sprint, while the longer tibia and fibula meant dinosaurs’ steps went farther with each step.
Biodiversity in Action
Creatures like Deinosuchus preyed on large dinosaurs, as the NPR article said. But Dr. Martin said that far earlier, an extinction in the Late Triassic Period appears to have led to dinosaurs thriving and diversifying throughout the Jurassic Period.
“This extinction may have been the tipping point for the start of dinosaur evolution,” he said. And what made them so successful in their evolution throughout the remainder of the Mesozoic Period?
“It was their adaptability and their diversity,” Dr. Martin said. “This is evidenced by their occupying every major terrestrial habitat from underground, on the ground, and in the trees. They also seemingly occupied nearly every ecological niche you could expect for a land animal, and this we discern from their diverse feeding choices.”
However, evolution only favored the dinosaurs on land. The seas and the sky belonged to other creatures.
Dr. Anthony Martin is Professor of Practice in the Department of Environmental Studies at Emory University, where he has taught courses in geology, paleontology, environmental science, and evolutionary biology since 1990. He earned his BS in Geobiology from St. Joseph’s College (Indiana), MS in Geology from Miami University (Ohio), and PhD in Geology from the University of Georgia.