Modern crocodiles are reputed to be gluttonous animals demanding meat. It is certainly true that crocodiles like to eat fresh meat these days, but it seems that some old crocodiles have not only regularly enjoyed leafy vegetables, but actually preferred a vegetarian diet.
published in Current Biology is based on fossils that have survived long after the extinction of many ancient crocodile species. The study shows that forks in the crocodile tree led to species that favored plants in history at least three times.
Scientists can learn a lot by studying the teeth of ancient species. Features of the teeth such as size and shape can provide clues to the diet of the animal itself. The study involved nearly 1
"Carnivores have simple teeth, whereas herbivores have much more complex teeth," said Keegan Melstrom, lead author of the paper, in a statement. "Omnivores, organisms that eat both plant and animal matter, fall somewhere in between. Part of my previous research has shown that this pattern applies to live reptiles with teeth such as crocodiles and lizards. These results indicate that the basic pattern between diet and teeth can be found in both mammals and reptiles despite very different tooth shapes and can be applied to extinct reptiles.
It is still unclear why the various species of crocodile so much and what environmental influences the crocodile species dramatically forked. The researchers hope to better understand in the future how these factors affect the species over time.