Scientists have found evidence that an ancient crocodile ancestor chowed down on a dinosaur. A member of a newfound species dubbed Confractosuchus sauroktonos, preserved within a fossilized crocodyliform, are the partially digested remains of a juvenile bipedal ornithopod. University of New England in Australia, paleontologist Matt White and colleagues published their research paper in Gondwana Research.
Crocodyliforms include modern species such as crocodiles, alligators and their ancestors. Those ancestors lived alongside dinosaurs for millions of years. Scientists found previous evidence of such as bite marks on fossilized dinosaur bones. It has hinted that croc ancestors dined on dinosaurs when the opportunity arose. But fossils with actual preserved stomach contents are really rare. C. sauroktonos is only the second extinct crocodyliform fossil with identifiable stomach contents. It is also the first to reveal a meal of dinosaur.
C. sauroktonos was about 2.5 meters long. It was slightly smaller than an adult female American alligator. It lived between 104 million and 92.5 million years ago in what is now Queensland, Australia. Similarities between the creature’s skull features and those of living and extinct crocodyliforms suggest that it eat dinos. C. sauroktonos also cast a wide net when it came to seeking out prey.
The grisly contents of its gut include a few ribs and bits of leg and arm bone. They represent the first ornithopod ever found in Queensland’s Winton rock formation. The herbivorous dino can be a new species. But it is difficult to tell from these few pieces.