Remains Of A Dinosaur Found Inside An Ancient Crocodile For First Time

A Cretaceous crocodile has been found with a newly eaten dinosaur in its stomach. This wasn’t quite the titanic dinner-time duel we might first imagine – the crocodile wasn’t all that large even by modern standards and the dinosaur was chicken-sized. Nevertheless, it’s confirmation of something palaeontologists have long suspected, as well as marking the discovery of a new crocodile species and genus.

In 2011 a team of paleontologists and volunteers were digging up some sauropod bones near Winton, Queensland in Australia. Dr Matt White of the University of New England told IFLScience the specimen turned out to be “not a very good one”. Nevertheless, having extracted all they could find with picks and shovels the team called in a front-end loader to scrape successive layers of dirt from the site.

Having dug down a meter with no success the team was just about to send the loader elsewhere but decided to take one more level. On the plus side, they hit a concretion that turned out to include a 93 million-year-old fossil crocodile that would otherwise still be sitting undiscovered beneath the sheep station. Instead, the unusual – for many reasons – find has been described in Gondwana Research. Unfortunately, the machine did considerable damage to the fossil in the process – heavy machinery not being the best way to treat fossils.

Alerted to the crocodile’s presence, White and others dug it up using more appropriate technology and found something remarkable: an unusually complete crocodile skeleton with a small ornithopod dinosaur in its belly. “You make the best discoveries when you break something,” White told IFLScience. Words to live by.