The following is an excerpt from By Shubham Sharma | May 14, 2018 | ibtimes.com |
Scientists have identified a completely new crocodile species, one that had bodily features from different croc families and scoured depths of the ocean millions of years ago.
The discovery, which gives new insight into the evolutionary history of the marine predator, was made after a group of paleontologists examined a fossil unearthed from a Hungarian mountain range in 1996. It was kept at a museum in Budapest, but when the group analyzed the features on the bones, they were surprised.
The group found the specimen’s odd-looking vertebra formed part of its tail fin. This appeared like a mix of features from two different Jurassic-era families of crocodiles — one that had a bone-like protective armor on the back and belly as well as limbs for walking on the surface and other that missed out on the armor but had tail fins and flippers to help with swimming.
That said, the group believes this one might have been the link between the two species, hosting a bit of both features — the bony armor and the tail fin.
"This fossil provides a unique insight into how crocodiles began evolving into dolphin and killer whale-like forms more than 180 million years ago,” study co-author Mark Young from University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences said in a statement. “The presence of both bony armor and a tail fin highlights the remarkable diversity of Jurassic-era crocodiles."
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