Turns out, some of the ancestors of alligators today had a habit of … vegetarian. It's hard to believe, isn't it?
"Our research shows that extinct crocodiles have an extremely diverse eating habit "- The main author of the study, the geologist at the University of Utah, Keegan Melstrom, said.
"Some are similar to the crocodiles that live today, mostly eating meat, others eating omnivores, and still having plant-eating species. "
The researchers studied 146 pieces of fossil teeth from 16 different species. When compared with live reptiles, they found that the tooth shape may indicate that the ancient crocodile likes to eat more meat or vegetables.
Predatory teeth often have a sharp, sharp, less complex point. Plant-eating species often have more detailed teeth, clustered, with grooves and protrusions to crush food before swallowing.
"The omnivores, which are creatures that eat both plants and animals, lie somewhere between the other two groups. My previous research shows that this model still exists on toothed reptiles, like crocodiles and lizards "- Melstron explained.
"So, these results tell us that the basic model between diet and teeth is present on both mammals and reptiles, even though the shape of teeth is very different, and applies to both extinct reptiles "
The researchers found that the first plant-eating crocodiles proliferated during the Jurassic period, and from Jurassic to Cretaceous, they evolved at least three times.
"The results show that herbivores evolved independently at least 3 times, possibly up to 6 times "- The researchers explained.
"This study shows that grass-eating alligators are much more common than we think and are present throughout the Middle China and on most continents. "
From top to bottom: carnivorous, omnivorous, and two herbivores
The team found eight herbivorous species – with flat and protruding teeth – and at least one omnivorous among the 16 ancient species.
Other researchers were very excited about the team's approach this time.
"This method can be replicated for newly discovered fossils, allowing us to try many different ideas to explain why herbivorous alligators are constantly evolving "- Paleontologist Patrick O'Connor of Ohio University said.
The team has not yet completed the task – they are currently rebuilding the crocodile's eating habits and hope to know why these organisms have grown so diverse in their time. dinosaur, but not later.
"Herbivores live on different continents, at different times, some live next to mammals and relatives of mammals, others do not. This shows that grass-eating crocodiles successfully develop in many different environmental conditions "- Melstrom added.