A team of researchers has discovered that some ancient crocodiles had a plant-based diet during the age of dinosaurs, meaning that they were vegans. Previous studies have shown that prehistoric reptiles went through a preference for plant-eating for at least three times between 65 million to 200 million years ago.
The new data was obtained by analyzing ancient teeth and comparing them with ones recovered from contemporary specimens. The structural pattern of the newer teeth can be used to infer the purpose of the ancient ones. Several 146 fossil teeth about 16 species of extinct crocodyliforms were surveyed during the study.
It is known that crocodyliforms were an ancient group of reptiles. A select group evolved into the contemporary crocodiles and alligators and their exotic relatives the caiman and gharial.
A Groundbreaking Study Revealed That Ancient Crocodiles Were Vegans
The team harnessed the power of computer modeling to evaluate the size and other traits of the biting surface in the case of each tooth. It may be quite surprising to learn that a higher complexity suggests that the tooth in question may have been used to eat plants instead of meat.
While some of the crocodyliforms remained loyal to the classic meat diet, others were omnivorous and enjoyed eating both meat and well plants. A few ate insects, and some relied on plants as the primary and sole form of nourishment. The significant achievement of the paper comes from the fact that the researchers classify the teeth according to their functions. When most people think about crocodyliforms, they are likely to imagine that they were apex predators, able to maim and hunt an impressive amount of prey.
The study notes that their position in the food chain was quite interesting. Some of the ancient crocodiles could have eliminated a T-Rex in a few minutes. Others were at the bottom of the food chain. The results of the study were published in a scientific journal.