Paleontologists led by the University of Iowa discovered two new species of crocodiles that roamed Africa between 18 and 15 million years ago and fed on human ancestors.
The Giant Kinyang Dwarf Crocodiles they were up to four times longer than their modern relatives, the dwarf crocodiles. The discovery of the new species occurs after analysis of the skull of a Kinyang specimen.
the dwarf crocodiles they rarely exceed a meter and a half in length, but the old ways they were up to four meters long and were probably among the fiercest threats to any animal they encountered.
“These were the biggest predators our ancestors faced,” he said in a statement. Christopher Broch, teacher of Iowa Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and corresponding author of the study. And he added: “They were opportunistic predators, just like crocodiles today. It would have been downright dangerous for ancient humans to go to the river for a drink.”
The new species are called Kinyang mabokoensia and Kinyang tehernovi. They had short, deep snouts and large, conical teeth. Their nostrils flared slightly up and to the front, not straight up as they do in modern crocodilians. They spent most of their time in the forest, rather than in the water, waiting to ambush their prey. They had what seemed a big smile that made them seem very happy, but they would bite your face off if you gave them the chance.” Brochure.
Kinyang lived in the East African Rift Valley, in parts of the current Kenya, in the early to middle Miocene period, a time when the region was largely covered by forest. However, from the end of a period called the Miocene Climatic Optimum, about 15 million years ago, both species seemed to become extinct.
Why did they disappear? Brochure believes that climate change caused less precipitation in the region. The reduction in rainfall led to a gradual retreat of the forests, which gave way to grasslands and mixed savannah forests. The change in landscape affected Kinyang, which the researchers believe likely preferred forested regions for hunting and nesting.
“Modern Dwarf Crocodiles They are found exclusively in forested wetlands. stressed Brochure, who has studied ancient and modern crocodilians for more than three decades. “The loss of habitat may have caused a major change in crocodiles that are in the area. “These same environmental changes have been linked to the rise of bipedal primates larger ones that gave rise to modern humans,” he added.
The expert acknowledges that the cause of the extinction of the Kinyang requires more proof, since researchers cannot pinpoint when the animals became extinct. Also, there is a gap in the fossil record between the Kinyang and other crocodilian lineages that appeared on the scene about 7 million years ago. The newcomers included relatives of the nile crocodile which is currently in Kenya.
Brochure examined the specimens during several visits since 2007 to the National Museums Of Kenya, in Nairobi. The study was published in The Anatomical Record.
With information from Europe Press