You’ll indeed feel nostalgic when you come across ancient crocodiles from 200 million years ago that look identical to the crocodiles of today.
New research sheds light on the mysterious evolution and historic past of one of the biggest aquatic animals.
If you’ve ever wondered how the planet looked 200 million years ago, you wouldn’t be shocked that things drastically don’t look the same. On the other hand, you’ll indeed feel nostalgic when you come across ancient crocodiles that look identical to the crocodiles of today.
Painted as “living fossils” new research paints the crocodiles’ mysterious past and explains why these aquatic reptiles still look the same after 200 million years.
Why Evolving Takes Too Long With Crocodiles
The research tells us that compared to other species such as birds, land animals, and other lizards that have remodeled to thousands of different species, Crocodiles only have a total of 25 different species on earth.
In a study published in the journal Communications Biology, researchers explain that using machine-learning algorithm, crocodiles have been found to have a remarkably slow evolution rate.
The distribution and ecology of today’s crocodiles are determined by many environmental factors such as temperature. History tells us that in the past, crocodilians included amphibious marine and terrestrial ancestors spanning the previous 247 million years.
For a time, a species of crocodile ran on the tips of their toes and spent most life at sea, according to National Geographic.
Dr Max Stockdale, the lead author from the University of Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences, says “It is fascinating to see how intricate a relationship exists between the Earth and the living things we share it with.”
He further explains “Crocodiles have landed a lifestyle that allows them to adapt to the enormous environmental changes that have taken place since the dawn of dinosaurs.”
According to the study, the small diversity in crocodile species today and less distinct traits are prime evidence of the crocodilians slow evolutionary rate.
The findings suggest that because of the crocodile’s distinct features, they could adapt to the environmental changes without the need for evolution.
Researchers note that the versatility of crocodiles’ bodies signifies how the species survived the catastrophic meteor that killed off the dinosaurs during the Cretaceous period 66 million years ago.
Evidence also suggests that more undiscovered species of crocodile existed and thrived alongside the dinosaurs compared to the present. The study notes that there might have been more exotic crocodiles during prehistoric times that are deemed to be as big as the dinosaurs.
Regardless, the team of palaeontologists has discovered a possible stepping stone to understanding the Earth’s history. We now know why 200 million years later, the crocodiles still look exactly the same as their earlier predecessors.
Originally published at The Science Times