A prehistoric fossil in Peru sheds light on the marine origin of crocodiles

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LIMA – The discovery of a prehistoric crocodile fossil in Peru around 7 million years ago has given paleontologists more clues about how modern crocodiles, all freshwater creatures from the Andean country, are arrived from the sea for the first time.

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According to a Peruvian research team that analyzed the jawbone and skull remains of the species, the animal likely crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the coast of South America, eventually populating what is today. southern Peru today.

Researcher Rodolfo Salas said his team had collected partial skeletons of the species in recent years and after finding a jawbone in Peru’s Sacaco desert in 2020, they understood how these animals had evolved after living in salt water.

“The new species of crocodile that we are introducing to the world lived in Sacaco 7 million years ago,” Salas said of the species, which he dubbed Sacacosuchus cordovai. The crocodilian ancestor would have been 4 meters (13 feet) long, he added.

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Sacaco is a site where skeletons of prehistoric animals have already been found. Experts say that millions of years ago, the desert was a deep seabed inhabited by whales, giant sharks and crocodiles, among other marine species.

“We concluded … that all saltwater crocodiles were animals with long, thin faces, and that there were two morphotypes,” Salas said. “One that ate almost exclusively fish and another that had a much more general diet.”

The studies were published last week in the British scientific journal The Royal Society.

Southern Peru is a rich source of prehistoric remains.

In March, a team of paleontologists led by Salas presented the skull fossil of a 12-meter-long (39-foot-long) ‘sea monster’, a predator that lived 36 million years ago in an ancient ocean along the central coast of Peru.

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