The ancient crocodile!

It's incredible that millions of years ago crocodiles like the Dyrosaurus we're roaming the margins of lagoons and brackish waters, even marine adaptions occur alongside dinosaurs. If they could tell their story...

According to a variety of studies in recent years, crocodiles were very different reptiles to the ones we are familiar with today with a more diverse adaptable abilities. Their evolution and anatomical variation during the Mesozoic Era was remarkable, having to evolve lifestyles and feeding habits unlike anything in our time today.

Variable examinations on the shape and bio-mechanical function of the lower jaws in over 100 ancient crocodiles during the Mesozoic period which began 251 million years ago and covered over 170 million years. Show these studies reveal the ancient crocodiles invaded the Jurassic seas and evolved jaws built primarily for water efficiency, streamline narrow gharial types which course through currents more efficiently aiding speed and the capture of agile prey like fish.

Also evolving a variety of lower jaw shapes during the Cretaceous Period, 145 million to 65 million years ago as they adapted to a diverse range of niche environments alongside the competing dinosaurs, including vegetation. Surprisingly, the lower jaws of Cretaceous crocodiles did not have a huge amount of variation, the fossil records point toward novel adaptations in other anatomical areas, such as armadillo-like body armour.

Dr Stephanie Pierce, from the Royal Veterinary Association quoted; ‘Our results show that the ability to exploit a variety of different food resources and habitats, by evolving many different jaw shapes, was crucial to recovering from the end-Triassic extinction and most likely contributed to the success of Mesozoic crocodiles living in the shadow of the dinosaurs.’

It is also believed that crocodiles were able to run like dogs millions of years ago, enabling them to scavenge and avoid predators with perhaps a little more ease. We’re slightly surprisingly however as records show, modern crocodiles can only run up to speeds of 11 mph, whereas alligators can reach speeds of 25 mph in short bursts.

 

Fossil crocodiles

 

A 3D fossilised crocodile jaw

3D Dyrosaurus Crocodile Snout showing remarkable preservation and condition. This important Dyrosaurus phosphaticus crocodile snout displays a host of teeth, all of which are fully articulated and situated firmly within there authentic positions within the jaws. Both maxilla and mandible clenched together in the vice grip of the marine reptile. often during the fossilisation process's teeth are lost, with this particular example the partial snout clearly evokes the predatory nature of the cretaceous apex predator, the teeth being fixed tightly together, having been fixed since deposition in the fossil slits which have become phosphaticus limestone. Thus allowing a remarkably rare event and preserving the whole section of this snout.

 

Crocodile products

 

Crocodile origin

The Tethyan phosphate trend sprawls across North Africa and the Middle East and is mined in several countries. The Moroccan portion of the trend is presently the most exploited, producing about 19 million tonnes or 14% of the global supply [1980 figures], making this one of Morocco main industries. All mining is state-owned by the Office Cherifien des Phosphates [OCP]. The plateaux in the region there are 3-5 main outcrops of phosphate beds. Around the area of Kouribga, the Oulad-Abdoun plateau has been mined since the 1920s.The Ganntour plateau to the south has been mined for many years. A new mine in the central area of this deposit at Ben Guerir was commissioned in 1981.Hence the recent discoveries since this date of numerous fossils.