Scientists discover giant prehistoric ‘patron of the river’ crocodile in Australia
Scientists have discovered a new species of prehistoric giant crocodile who roamed the south-east Queenslandmillions of years ago, a discovery that further sheds light on the evolutionary lineage of these large reptiles.
According to researchers, including Jorgo Ristevski from the University of Queensland in Australia, the new species, named Gunggamarandu maunala, is “one of the largest crocodiles to ever call home” the continent.
The name of the genus Gunggamarandu means “patron of the river” and the name of the species maunala means “hole head” – referring to the large hole-shaped openings on the top of the animal’s skull that served as a place of muscle attachment.
“The name of the new species honors the First Nations people of the Darling Downs area, incorporating words from the languages of the Barunggam and Waka Waka nations,” study co-author Steve Salisbury said in a statement. .
In the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists analyzed a partial skull unearthed in the Darling Downs circa 1875 that has been safely held in the collection of the Queensland Museum for over a hundred years.
While the exact overall size of the reptile could not be determined based on the analysis of the skull, scientists believe that, proportional to the size of the skull, Gunggamarandu could have a length of about 7 m.
“We estimate that the skull would have been at least 80 centimeters long, and based on comparisons with live fangs, this indicates a total body length of around seven meters,” Ristevski said in a statement.
Based on the analysis, scientists say Gunggamarandu maunala could be on par with the largest Indo-Pacific crocodiles on record – the Crocodylus porosus.
The study could not estimate the exact age of the fossil, but scientists believe the bones were likely between two and five million years old.
Using CT scans, the researchers were able to digitally reconstruct the reptile’s brain cavity and uncover additional details about its anatomy.
They say the new crocodile belonged to a group of reptiles called tomistomines or “false gharials” – only one species of which survives today, limited to the Malay Peninsula and parts of Indonesia.
“The results suggest a potential phantom lineage between European and Australian tomistomines dating back more than 50 million years,” the scientists wrote in the study.
“With the exception of Antarctica, Australia was the only other continent without fossil evidence of tomistomines. But with the discovery of Gunggamarandu we can add Australia to the list “once inhabited by tomistomines”, ”Ristevski added.