A prolonged-shed African crocodile shares a lot more than a bumpy snout with modern American crocs. It may be their direct ancestor, a new research concludes. 

The skull comes from an extinct animal, Crocodylus checchiai. Its features hint that crocodiles may possibly have journeyed from Africa to the Americas. If real, this would have been millions of many years back. Researchers described their findings July 23 in Scientific Studies.

They have been learning a around 7-million-12 months-previous fossil. Unearthed in the 1930s from what is now Libya, it sat for a long time in a museum. Now, experts have mapped its cranium using CT scans. The skull’s characteristics tie the reptile to all four species of today’s American crocodiles.

It appears to be like an American croc, suggests Massimo Delfino. It just lived in Africa. Delfino studies historic reptiles at the College of Turin in Italy.

The Nile crocodile, a modern day African croc, also is associated to American crocs. Scientists suspect long back crocodiles lived in 1 region before spreading out to other folks. But fossils experienced in no way painted a distinct photo of which came very first — all those in Africa or those people in the Americas.

Some crocs swam in America waters as early as 5 million yrs back. C. checchiai predates people historical animals by about 2 million yrs. However the extinct reptile is a near relative of American crocs, C. checchiai also is closely linked to the Nile species. That means the fossil fills a gap in between African and American species, Delfino’s crew concludes.

Did a group of crocs swim from Africa to the Americas? Possibly, Delfino says. The continents would have been in about the same position as now. And today’s crocodiles can survive saltwater, he notes. In fact, they even travel hundreds of kilometers (miles) by way of ocean currents.

ancient African crocodile skull
The features of this C. checchiai skull put the animal at the foundation of American crocs’ branch in the crocodile evolutionary tree.Bruno Mercurio