Ancient Crocodiles May Have Swam From Africa to America

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New Evidence Suggests Ancient Crocodiles Swam From Africa to America

by Theresa Machemer/Smithsonianmag.com

Most American crocodiles don’t need to look far to find the feature that sets them apart from Nile crocodiles. The difference lies right between their eyes and their nostrils. Of crocodiles living today, only the four crocodile species that live in the Americas have a small bump in the middle of their snouts.

But about seven million years ago, a ten-foot-long crocodile living in what’s now Libya had the same tell-tale lump, according to research published in Scientific Reports last week. A fossil skull of the extinct Crocodylus checchiai provides more evidence that crocodiles spread across the world by migrating from Australia, through Africa and finally to South America.

The fossil “fills a gap between the Nile crocodile in Africa and the four extant American species,” University of Turin paleoherpetologist Massimo Delfino says to Science News’ Carolyn Wilke.

The fact that crocodiles live on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean has long puzzled biologists trying to figure out which direction the giant reptiles migrated. Genetic research in 2011 provided molecular evidence that crocodiles migrated from Africa to the Americas, but fossil evidence was scant.

“The main problem for palaeobiologists is the rarity and fragmentary nature of fossil remains,” Delfino and…… read more:

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2 COMMENTS

  1. It bears mentioning that that the African and North American continental plates have been drifting apart at the mid-Atlantic ridge for eons, so the swim distance would have been shorter, but still impressive.

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