The heading for this article may be quite confusing to many of the readers. Some may even go to the extreme of thinking that I have joined the league of Nutty Writers. However there is not a shred of fiction in this. Crocodiles have been found in Sahara desert. There is just a small postscript. The crocs have been found in fossilized form and were living here some hundred millions years ago.
Two paleontologists, Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago and Hans Larsson of McGill University in Montreal and their team have been digging for fossils at Gadoufaoua in Niger, a remote site in the Sahara Desert where Tuareg nomads roam, since 1997. They were rather surprised to find fossilized remains of crocodiles which lived there in Cretaceous period, from about 145 to 65 million years ago. In this periods the continents were nearer to each other that at present, the climate was much wetter and warm. As a result there were super rivers flowing in the African continent. The region of Sahara desert in those days was a huge swamp, a heaven for reptiles like crocodiles.
Sereno and Larsson have discovered six new species of crocodiles with sizes ranging from couple of inches to forty feet. They have named these crocs as BoarCroc, RatCroc, DogCroc, DuckCroc, PancakeCroc and supercroc from the shape of their jaw. Sereno’s team has discovered fossilized eggs, skulls, bones, parts of spine and jaws in large numbers. With modern techniques like X-Ray and Ct scan, Sereno’s team was able to analyze the fossils extensively.
Each of these crocodiles preyed on completely different kind of animals and had a totally different life styles. It appears that they had divided the total ecosystem amongst themselves for mutual benefits The largest specie from the lot is the supercroc. This specimen was about 40 feet long and weighed about 8000 kilograms. The jaw itself was six feet long with hundred powerful teeth embedded in it. This animal not only ate fish but also small dinosaurs. It probably spent most of its time underwater, “living an ambush lifestyle. The ancient croc had eye sockets that tilted upward, which helped it conceal its huge body underwater while scanning the river’s edge.
The Boarroc and and pancake croc were about 20 feet long. Rat croc was the smallest specimen with jaw length of only few inches. Some of the species could stand erect on their two feet and run upright. They would ram their prey with their massive jaws and kill it. These crocs do not seem to look like modern crocodiles but the shape of the jaw in some of them is similar to Gharial crocodile found in India.
We are scared today because of the minor changes in the Earth’s environment due to factors like global warming. There have been catastrophic environmental changes on earth in history. Such changes have many times have almost destroyed the entire ecosystem of the earth. Even then, few sturdy animals like crocodiles have survived and are still living on the surface of earth.
26 November 2009