Well, we couldn’t really resist that one…
A new study released today in Scientific Reports announced the surprising discovery of abundant, well-preserved 110-120-million-year-old footprints, belonging to a large bipedal ancestor of modern-day crocodiles from the Lower Cretaceous Jinju Formation of South Korea. The team of palaeontologist trackers that made the discovery includes researchers from Korea, Australia, and University of Colorado Denver professor, Martin Lockley…
“It shocked us to learn that the trackways represent bipedal animals 3-4 meters long,” said team leader Professor Kyung Soo Kim, Chinju National University of Education.
“Nobody expected such large bipedal crocs,” said Martin Lockley, a University of Colorado professor who has been studying fossil footprints in Korea for 30 years. “The Jinju Formation is so rich in tracks; you can read the entire ecology.”
The discovery of well-preserved tracks is important to palaeontologist trackers because they show details of skin impressions as clear as if made yesterday. Tracks also read the pattern of pads, showing foot bone structure and the tell-tale narrowness of trackways which show a bipedal gait, different from the sprawling posture of modern crocodiles. There has even been evidence from parallel trackways that show they may have travelled in social groups, just like their dinosaur cousins.University of Colorado at Denver, “New discovery of giant bipedal crocodile footprints in the cretaceous of Korea” at Eurekalert
Paper. (open access)
The tracks were once thought to have been made by a pterosaur:
“The discovery of the new tracks solved the ‘whodunnit’ mystery,” says Lockley. He says the next step will be to look for more tracks in this region, where the quality of preservations is particularly high.
Michela Johnson at the University of Edinburgh in the UK says the tracks appear to have very distinct, chunky-looking toes, in addition to impressions from crocodile-like scales, both of which are more consistent with crocodylomorph rather than pterosaur origin.Layal Liverpool, “Ancient footprints could be from a crocodile that walked on two legs” at New Scientist
Next, we’ll hear they were wearing crocs.