Snakes and Crocodiles: The Things That Ate Dinosaurs
We are used to thinking of dinosaurs in alpha terms; they were, after all, the very kings of creation, the largest and fiercest things to ever walk the earth. What, after all, could possibly harm a twenty ton sauropod or check a fearsome Tyrannosaurus in its tracks? Surely mere animals quaked at their passing!
As it happens, no. Even a cursory glance at the fossil record uncovers animals that could (and did) devour dinosaurs without a great deal of trouble. Whether they snapped up young or dragged down adults, there were plenty of animals who ate dinosaurs on, if not a regular, then at least a common basis. Unsurprisingly, most of them are also powerful predators today.
Crocodiles provide the best example. Their family has arrived in the modern era a mere remnant of past glory; in eons past the family was far more diverse. Recent discoveries like the Boar Croc have highlighted this to some extent, but to get a really good sense of how effective the crocodiles were at exploiting niches, you have to take a wider view. In Gondwana (the Cretaceous amalgamation of South America, Australia, and Africa) the crocodiles evolved a multitude of forms. Take, for example, the Wolf Crocodiles.
Imagine a crocodile that stands on long, straight legs and has powerful, bone crushing jaws. No problem you might think; just stay far away from the water and you’d be fine. Unfortunately, this crocodile prowls the land. And it is quite large. Not nearly so large as another animal though; the huge Sarcosuchus grew to lengths of up to 40 feet and had teeth like railroad spikes. North America had its own giant crocodile; the massive Deinosuchus rivaled its southern cousin for size and presented a very real threat to anything crossing its path. While there is no fossil evidence to suggest crocodiles like this preyed upon dinosaurs, it is impossible to believe that such predators would not have passed up an opportunity to do so.
Fossil evidence, as it happens, is a tricky thing; most evidence of predation simply doesn’t exist. So when evidence does turn up, it’s a pretty big deal: it may confirm suspected theories about paleoecology, which is a notoriously inexact science. Thus the recent discovery of a snake buried in the act of attacking a dinosaur hatchling was rightly hailed as impressive. At 11 feet long, Sanejeh indicus (or Ancient Gape from India) was not to be trifled with
, even by today’s standards. The fossils show the animal coiled around a nest, about to attack a baby long necked dinosaur. Again, this could not have been an uncommon occurrence; dinosaur eggs and hatchlings probably provided a bonanza to predators.
As we consider the mighty dinosaur, we would do well to remember that at many times in its life it was not so mighty. And at those times, there were plenty of animals waiting to take advantage.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 2 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 3 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 4 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 5 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 6 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 7 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 8 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 9 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Strartup
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook