Palaeontology: Ancient African skull sheds light on American crocodile origins

July 23, 2020

The extinct African crocodile species Crocodylus checchiai may be closely related to American crocodile species alive today, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. The findings suggest that crocodiles may have migrated from Africa to America during the Late Miocene epoch (11-5 million years ago).

Prior to this discovery it was unclear whether crocodiles reached the Americas from Africa, via a hypothesized transatlantic voyage, or vice-versa. Massimo Delfino and colleagues used CT imaging to re-examine a skull of C. checchiai stored at the Earth Sciences museum MUST of Sapienza University of Rome, that was discovered in 1939 in As Sahabi, Libya. The authors identified several new skull structures including a protrusion in the middle of the snout of C. checchiai that has not been identified on any other African crocodile species but that is present on the skulls of the four living American crocodile species Crocodylus intermedius, C. moreleti, C. acutus and C. rhombifer. This shared skeletal structure indicates a close evolutionary relationship between C. checchiai and American crocodiles.

Further analyses of the evolutionary relationships between species suggest that C. checchiai may be part of the same lineage as the four crocodile species found in North and South America today. The remains of C. checchiai have been dated to around seven million years ago while the oldest remains of an American crocodile, the extinct C. falconensis, have been dated to around five million years ago. Based on these findings, the authors propose that crocodiles reached America by migrating westwards from Australasia via Africa.
-end-
Article and author details

Old African fossils provide new evidence for the origin of the American crocodiles

Corresponding author:

Massimo Delfino
University of Turin, Turin, Italy
Email: massimo.delfino@unito.it

Dawid Iurino
Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy
Email: dawid.iurino@uniroma1.it

DOI:

10.1038/s41598-020-68482-5

Online paper*

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-68482-5

* Please link to the article in online versions of your report (the URL will go live after the embargo ends)

Scientific Reports

Related Crocodiles Articles from Brightsurf:

African crocodiles lived in Spain six million years ago
The crocodiles that inhabited the coasts of North Africa during the late Miocene period embarked on a journey to Europe across what is now the Mediterranean basin.

New study reveals how reptiles divided up the spoils in ancient seas
While dinosaurs ruled the land in the Mesozoic, the oceans were filled by predators such as crocodiles and giant lizards, but also entirely extinct groups such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs.

Computational study of famous fossil reveals evolution of locomotion in 'ruling reptiles'
Scientists from the University of Bristol and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) used three-dimensional computer modelling to investigate the hindlimb of Euparkeria capensis-a small reptile that lived in the Triassic Period 245 million years ago-and inferred that it had a ''mosaic'' of functions in locomotion.

Palaeontology: Ancient African skull sheds light on American crocodile origins
The extinct African crocodile species Crocodylus checchiai may be closely related to American crocodile species alive today, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

Genetic differences between global American Crocodile populations identified in DNA analysis
A genetic analysis of the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) has re-established our understanding of its population structure, aiding its conservation.

High-tech CT reveals ancient evolutionary adaptation of extinct crocodylomorphs
New insights into the anatomy of the inner ear of prehistoric reptiles, the thalattosuchians, revealed details about the evolutionary adaption during the transition into the ocean after a long semiaquatic phase.

Ancient crocodiles walked on two legs like dinosaurs
An international research team has been stunned to discover that some species of ancient crocodiles walked on their two hind legs like dinosaurs and measured over three metres in length.

New discovery of giant bipedal crocodile footprints in the cretaceous of Korea
A new study has announced the surprising discovery of well-preserved footprints belonging to a large bipedal ancestor of modern-day crocodiles.

Palaeontology: Ancient footprints may belong to two-legged crocodile, not giant pterosaur
The discovery of large well-preserved footprints belonging to an ancestor of modern-day crocodiles from the Lower Cretaceous Jinju Formation of South Korea is reported this week in Scientific Reports.

Synchrotron X-ray sheds light on some of the world's oldest dinosaur eggs
An international team of scientists led by the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, has been able to reconstruct, in the smallest details, the skulls of some of the world's oldest known dinosaur embryos in 3D, using powerful and non-destructive synchrotron techniques at the ESRF, the European Synchrotron in France.

Read More: Crocodiles News and Crocodiles Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.