History of the Crocodile
By: By Vanessa Ho
Roughly 65 million years ago, an asteroid came crashing to Earth and perhaps led to the extinction of most prehistoric life on our planet. But one dinosaur-like animal that managed to survive this mass extinction continues to live today.
Crocodilians roamed the Earth along with those "terrible thunder lizards" and exist today as crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gharials (those croc-like creatures with long, narrow snouts.)Evolution of a mighty lizard
Crocodilians are an order of the Archosaur family and were dominant during the Cretaceous period - also known as the Age of Reptiles.
Archosaurs - which means ruling lizards - emerged about 250 million years ago during the late Permian period.
Around the late Triassic period (about 220 million years ago) they divided into two evolutionary lines - one into crocodiles and another into dinosaurs and birds.
The oldest crocodile fossil found was called Protosuchus (meaning "first crocodile"). It was 240 million years old and thrived during the Jurassic period.
In fact, most early Archosaurs - in general - resembled modern-day crocodiles, with narrow skulls, pointed snouts, teeth set in sockets and a modified ankle joint.Unearthing some lost lizards
Along with the dinosaurs and some of those first birds, many crocodilian species have gone extinct. Included among these dist
ant ancestors of modern crocs are:Deinosuchus: an ancient crocodilian also known as the "terrible crocodile" This was also the largest crocodilian, growing up to 15 metres (50 feet)! Deinosuchus lived during the late Cretaceous period.
Geosaurus: an early crocodilian, which lived during the late Jurassic to early Cretaceous period. This aquatic reptile grew to a length of 3 metres (10 feet.)
Leidysuchus: Fossils of this ancient crocodile (also known as Leidy's crocodile) have been found in North America. Leidysuchus was long-snouted and lived during the late cretaceous period.
Today, crocodiles and birds are the only remaining Archosaurs.
There are 23 crocodilian species still roaming the Earth. Of those, 14 belong directly to the crocodile family with a variety of other species located in the wilds of Africa, Australia the southern U.S. and several other hot and steamy locales.