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Some crocodiles once were vegetarians, 200 million years ago

200 million years ago, crocodiles had a different diet than what we know today – instead of eating meat, they were vegetarians.

The recent Utah University study and the National Historical Museum in the United States have published their findings in the journal Current Biology.

How did researchers discover the nutritional preferences of ancient crocodiles? Sweating dental garments and analyzing their teeth.

Foliar teeth gave a trace of their tendency to vegetarianism.


Fossil teeth and vegetarianism

It turns out that three to six crocodile branches and an alligator family had teeth specializing in chewing plants.

It is unbelievable that researchers have been able to reconstruct the diet of these people who eat plants only by analyzing those fossil teeth. The team reviewed 146 teeth of 16 different crocodile types.

Ancient vegetarian crocodiles have been sweeping the country more than 200 million years ago
Leading author Keegan Melster with 3D prints of extinct crocodile teeth (blue) and skull of live representatives of this group. Source: Mark Johnston / Natural History Museum in Utah

Keegan Melstrom, author of the study, said: "Carnivores have simple teeth, and herbivores have much more complex teeth."

He continued: "Our study shows that the complex shape of teeth, which we conclude to point out to herbivorous, appear in the extinct crocodile relatives at least three times, and maybe six."

The fossil teeth used in the study clearly showed that they were reptiles that did not eat meat.

Melstrom and Dr. Randall Irmis, chief curator of paleontology at Utah's Natural History Museum, have been able to find out what these animals are like by comparing the complexity of their teeth with extinct crocodiles with today's.

The teeth are 200 million years old

Analyzing the fossilized teeth, the team managed to conclude that at least three to six crocodile forms smacked Earth during the Mesozoic era, about 200 million years ago.

Ancient vegetarian crocodiles have been sweeping the country more than 200 million years ago
Life reconstructions of extinct crocodiles. Source: Jorge Gonzalez / Natural History Museum in Utah

Research has allowed researchers to learn more about crocodiles in general.

Melstrom said, "Some crocodiles are similar to live crocodiles and were primarily carnivores, others were beasts (eating meat and plants), and others specialized in plants."

He noted that "herbivores lived on different continents at different times, some with mammals and mammals, and others were not."

"It suggests that crocodile molds were successful in different environments," he concluded.

The real changes from the crocodiles we know today.

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