Researchers have found important details in the ‘evolutionary puzzle’ of Australia’s crocodiles: the largest now-extinct reptile, called Gunggamarandu maunala, or ‘hollow-headed river chief’.
These crocodiles followed different lifestyles
The species, newly named from its partial skull, found in the Darling Downs of Queensland, belongs to the crocodile subfamily, of which several are known to have become extinct, extending the subfamily all the way to the Eocene. Prior to this, crocodiles belonging to the family Tomistominae were not found in Australia.According to the current scientific state, there are only two species of crocodiles in Australia: the Australian freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus Johnson) and the polygonal crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). The latter is the largest living reptile in the world, some male specimens exceed 6 meters and 1,000 kilograms.
But no matter how amazing these two species are, we can meet many species of crocodiles in the past millions of years. Giorgio Ristevsky, a PhD student at the University of Queensland, pointed out ScienceAlert Online science portal. Twenty-four in number, nineteen of them belong to a group called the Mekosuchinae, an extinct family of crocodiles from Australia and the South Pacific.
He added that these animals existed in various shapes and sizes, from less than two meters to more than five meters, and that the shape of their noses also varied greatly, and that these animals followed different lifestyles and fell prey differently. According to experts
Some, like today’s crocodiles, were semi-aquatic predators, while others likely hunted on land.
The last specimens survived on a few Pacific islands, but became extinct soon after humans settled.
However, crocodiles were not alone in Australia
Paleontologists have been particularly active in studying crocodiles that once lived in Australia for the past 30 years. Almost all studies have shown that the vast majority of extinct reptiles from here belong to the subfamily Mekosuchinae. Scientists say that’s why they may once have been the “rulers” until the relatively recent arrival of members of the Crocodylus genus.
The new discovery revealed that crocodiles were not alone on this continent as we previously thought Stephen W. Salisbury, associate professor in the University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences explained. Gunggamarandu maunala is the first Australian crocodile in the subfamily Tomistominae.
It is named after the words of the Barunggam and Waka Waka nations languages: Gunggamarandu means “head of the river,” and maunala means “pierced head,” referring to the large openings on top of the skull.Today, there is only one living member of the subfamily in the world, called the Sunda Crocodile.Tomstoma Schligeli), which is now home only to freshwater in Indonesia and Malaysia. According to the most recent classification of the system, it belongs to the family Gavialidae; The only living species of its genus.
One of the most noticeable features of this species and its extinct relatives is its long, slender face.
And while the researchers say that the discovery of a new species of crocodile is exciting in itself, it goes further: a representative of the first known Australian species has proven that crocodiles on this continent were more diverse than previously believed by science. Furthermore, the proportions of the fossils indicate that this was probably the largest known crocodile now extinct in Australia with a length of seven metres.
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