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Plant Eating Crocodile? Yes, They Existed in the Mesozoic Era

by | July 3, 2019

Ever thought there could be a plant eating crocodile?

Before you’re petrified by the spine-chilling grin of a crocodile, read this! Researchers have taken a closer look into the prehistoric crocodile and they discovered quite a difference compared to the modern species. As it turns out, crocodiles, who are feared for their voracious appetite for meat, were plant-eaters hundreds of millions of years ago. Yes, as contradictory as it may sound, this is true- there was a plant eating crocodile! Interestingly it was a whole species which evolved over three times throughout history. Know more about them here.

Plant Eating Crocodile? Yes, They Were There in the Mesozoic Era
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Plant Eating Crocodile? Yes, They Existed in the Mesozoic Era

After studying the prehistoric remains of the “crocodylians,” researchers at the University of Utah revealed some mind-boggling facts – the crocodile which existed during this era were potentially plant-eaters contrary to their meat-eating cousins today.

Stark variations in the teeth of the forebearers found in fossils caught the attention of researchers who believe the ancient creatures were plant-eaters. The study published in Current Biology found between three to six members of the alligator and crocodile family had teeth structure adapt to chewing plants and not meat.

This was suggested after analyzing 146 teeth from 16 fossiled crocodylians. The teeth of those specimen were reportedly shaped similar to those of herbivore dinosaurs.

Truth in Tooth?

In simple terms, unlike the pointed conical grin of the modern crocodiles and alligators, their ancient brethren possessed a different variation in teeth structure.

Their teeth appeared ‘non-carnivorous.’ In other words, the tooth structure of a carnivore are simple and pointed in shape in order to tear flesh, but in the case of an herbivore, teeth are more complex and designed to grind plants to derive nutrients.

The fossil remains of the ancient crocodylians suggest complex tooth shape leading researchers to this claim, according to multiple reports.

Photo by vaun0815 on Unsplash

Keegan Melstrom, study author and a doctoral student at the University of Utah, said:

“Our study indicates that complexly-shaped teeth, which we infer to indicate herbivory, appear in the extinct relatives of crocodiles at least three times and maybe as many as six.

“The most interesting thing we discovered was how frequently it seems extinct crocodyliforms ate plants.”

Keegan Melstrom via

“The occurrence of multiple origins of complex dentitions throughout Crocodyliformes indicates that herbivory was a beneficial dietary strategy and not a unique occurrence,” the study reads. It must be noted, the evolution of the ancient crocodiles adapting to plant-based eating occured over three times throughout history.

What do you think about a plant eating crocodile? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Debayan Paul

Digital Writer | West Bengal, India | [email protected]


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