Alligators eat sharks, new research


This New Scientist video from the USA says about itself:

25 September 2017

A previously overlooked conflict between alligators and sharks has been going on for centuries at least, and it seems the alligators are winning. Read more here.

From Kansas State University in the USA:

Bite on this: Alligators actually eat sharks

October 16, 2017

Jaws, beware! Alligators may be coming for you. A new study documents American alligators on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are eating small sharks and stingrays. This is the first scientific documentation of a widespread interaction between the two predators.

Jaws, beware! Alligators may be coming for you, according to a Kansas State University researcher.

While the sharks may not actually be as big as the fictional Jaws, James Nifong, postdoctoral researcher with the Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Kansas State University, and Russell Lowers, wildlife biologist with Integrated Mission Support Services at Kennedy Space Center, published a study in Southeastern Naturalist documenting that American alligators on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are eating small sharks and stingrays. This is the first scientific documentation of a widespread interaction between the two predators.

“In the article, we documented alligators consuming four new species of sharks and one species of stingray,” Nifong said. “Before this, there have only been a few observations from an island off the Georgia coast, but the new findings document the occurrence of these interactions from the Atlantic coast of Georgia around the Florida peninsula to the Gulf Coast and Florida panhandle.”

Despite the freshwater and saltwater differences, Nifong said it is fairly common for sharks and rays to share the water with alligators. Many sharks and rays can swim into freshwater where opportunistic alligators can’t pass up a good meal. Although alligators don’t have salt glands like true crocodiles, they are resourceful as they travel between freshwater and marine habitats.

“Alligators seek out fresh water in high-salinity environments,” Nifong said. “When it rains really hard, they can actually sip fresh water off the surface of the salt water. That can prolong the time they can stay in a saltwater environment.”

An alligator’s diet typically consists of crustaceans, snails and fish, but because alligators are opportunistic predators, Nifong said sharks may end up on the menu.

“The findings bring into question how important sharks and rays are to the alligator diet as well as the fatality of some the juvenile sharks when we think about population management of endangered species,” Nifong said.

As part of Nifong’s dissertation research, he pumped the stomachs of more than 500 live and alert alligators to learn more about their diet. Researchers also equipped the alligators with GPS transmitters to watch their movements and found that alligators travel between freshwater sources and estuaries, which are a partially enclosed coastal water body where freshwater and salt water mix and house shark nurseries.

“The frequency of one predator eating the other is really about size dynamic,” Nifong said “If a small shark swims by an alligator and the alligator feels like it can take the shark down, it will, but we also reviewed some old stories about larger sharks eating smaller alligators.”

Nifong dug into history and found news reports from the late 1800s that described battles of large masses of sharks and alligators after flooding and high tides washed the predators together. One particular historical incident included in the journal article described how the sharks were attracted to blood from alligators feeding on fish. When the alligators were washed out to sea, the sharks attacked.

Nifong conducted the alligator diet research as part of larger research of freshwater river systems and food web dynamics. He currently is researching the drivers of native fish biodiversity in the Neosho River Basin for Martha Matter in the Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, a part of the Division of Biology at Kansas State University.

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Big Jurassic crocodile discovery in Britain


This video says about itself:

2 October 2017

British waters are reassuringly free of deadly reptiles today – but 163 million years ago a sea crocodile dubbed the ‘Melksham monster’ lurked on our shores.

Scientists have established that the 10-foot long creature, named after the town in Wiltshire where its fossil was unearthed, lived in the warm, shallow seas that covered much of what is now Europe.

The heavily damaged fossil had been sitting in the archives of London’s Natural History Museum since 1875.

Its identification reveals that an extinct group of aquatic reptiles evolved millions of years earlier than was previously thought.

The creature’s powerful jaws and large, serrated teeth allowed it to feed on large prey including prehistoric squid, and it was one of the most fearsome predators of its day.

Modern crocodiles are largely found in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia. Their ancient ancestor is named Ieldraan melkshamensis after the Wiltshire town of Melksham where it was found preserved in clay.

Its name also means ‘older one’ because it was thought until now that the sub-family of prehistoric crocodiles to which it belongs – known as Geosaurini – originated in the Late Jurassic period, between 152 and 157 million years ago.

In fact, the latest discovery – together with detailed re-analysis of existing fossil evidence – suggests the group arose millions of years earlier, in the Middle Jurassic.

It was identified as a new species based on distinctive features of its skull, lower jaw and, in particular, its teeth.

Dr Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who was involved in the study, said: ‘The Melksham Monster would have been one of the top predators in the oceans of Jurassic Britain, at the same time that dinosaurs were thundering across the land.’

From the University of Edinburgh in Scotland:

Monstrous crocodile fossil points to early rise of ancient reptiles

October 2, 2017

A newly identified prehistoric marine predator has shed light on the origins of the distant relatives of modern crocodiles.

The discovery reveals that an extinct group of aquatic reptiles evolved millions of years earlier than was previously thought, researchers say.

Palaeontologists at the University of Edinburgh discovered the new species — which dates back 163 million years — by studying a heavily damaged fossil which was held in the Natural History Museum‘s archives for almost 150 years.

The ancient reptile — called Ieldraan melkshamensis — has been nicknamed the Melksham Monster after the town in England where it was unearthed.

Until now, it was thought that the sub-family of prehistoric crocodiles to which the new species belongs — known as Geosaurini — originated in the Late Jurassic period, between 152 and 157 million years ago.

However, the latest discovery — together with detailed re-analysis of existing fossil evidence — suggests that the group arose millions of years earlier, in the Middle Jurassic, the team says.

The little-studied specimen — acquired by the museum in 1875 — was identified as a new species based on distinctive features of its skull, lower jaw and, in particular, its teeth.

The study, published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, was carried out in collaboration with the Natural History Museum, London. The research was funded by Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions.

Davide Foffa, a PhD student in the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “It’s not the prettiest fossil in the world, but the Melksham Monster tells us a very important story about the evolution of these ancient crocodiles and how they became the apex predators in their ecosystem. Without the amazing preparation work done by our collaborators at the Natural History Museum, it would not have been possible to work out the anatomy of this challenging specimen.”

Mark Graham, Senior Fossil Preparator at the Natural History Museum, said: “The specimen was completely enclosed in a super-hard rock nodule with veins of calcite running through, which had formed around it during the process of fossilisation. This unyielding matrix had to be removed by force, using carbon steel tipped chisels and grinding wheels encrusted with industrial diamonds. The work took many hours over a period of weeks, and great care had to be taken to avoid damaging the skull and teeth as they became exposed. This was one tough old croc in life and death!”

South African hippos save wildebeest from crocodile


This video from South Africa says about itself:

Hippos Come to Rescue Wildebeest from Crocodile

29 August 2017

Timing is everything when visiting Kruger [National Park]… 72-year-old pensioner, Mervyn Van Wyk and his wife Tokkie, understand just how lucky they were to be in the right place at the right time!

Hippos threatened by ivory poachers: here.

Impala escapes from crocodile


This video from Maasai Mara national park in Kenya says about itself:

12 September 2017

Impala miraculously escapes from the deadly jaws of a crocodile.

Endangered Cuban crocodiles back in the wild


This video says about itself:

Wild Cuba [Nature Documentary] HD

12 July 2015

Cuba’s political and economic isolation has provided the outside world little opportunity to see its wildlife … until now. It may be renowned for its politics and its cigars, but Cuba is home to some of the most unusual creatures on earth, including the feisty Cuban crocodile, the world’s smallest bird and frog, and migrating land crabs.

Cuba’s diverse wildlife stems from its unique natural history. Cuba was not originally in the Caribbean Sea but in the Pacific Ocean, where the island was situated 100 million years ago, before the forces of continental drift slowly brought it into the Caribbean. As the island migrated over the ages, an astonishing variety of life arrived by air, sea, and possibly by land bridges that may have once existed. Over time, these animals adapted to their new environment. Today, more than half of Cuba’s plants and animals, including more than 80 percent of its reptiles and amphibians, are found nowhere else on the planet.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Endangered Cuban crocodiles come home

July 13, 2017

Experts from WCS’s Global Conservation Programs and WCS’s Bronx Zoo assisted Cuban conservationists in the recent release of 10 Cuban crocodiles (Crocodylus rhombifer) into Cuba’s Zapata Swamp as part of an ongoing recovery strategy for this Critically Endangered species.

These genetically pure crocodiles came from a breeding facility near the Zapata swamp. Hybridization with American crocodiles, which occur in the Southwestern tip of the Zapata Peninsula, is an ongoing issue and has contributed to the Cuban crocodile’s continuing decline. Cuban crocodiles face other threats, such as an increase in illegal hunting in recent years, so the release of captive bred Cuban crocodiles and the protection of these reptiles from poaching and hybridization is critical to the survival of the species in the wild.

The crocodiles were released in the Wildlife Refuge Channels of Hanabana (Refugio de Fauna Canales de Hanábana) — a 570 hectare (1,400 acre) mosaic of water channels, lagoons, marsh grasslands, and swamp forests in the easternmost Zapata Peninsula where Cuban crocodiles historically occurred. Marsh grasslands in this refuge provide crucial habitat for not only Cuban crocodiles, but prey including bird, fish and mammal species. No American crocodiles or hybrids are found in this Wildlife Refuge.

The recent release, which took place on June 8th, is the second reintroduction since Cuba started to release Cuban crocodiles in 2016. The decision to release the crocodiles followed a workshop of crocodile experts organized by WCS and Cuban institutions, including the Fundación Antonio Nuñez Jiménez, CITMA Ciénaga de Zapata, and Empresa Nacional para la Protección de la Flora y la Fauna. The workshop brought together 40 Cuban nationals working for the conservation of crocodiles in Cuba, and 30 international experts.

The workshop resulted in a series of agreed priorities for improving the conservation of crocodiles, including: strengthening the research and monitoring of Cuban crocodiles in the wild; increasing efforts to reintroduce and monitor reintroduced animals in Channels of Hanabana; working with local communities to reduce poaching through alternative livelihoods and environmental education; and working with local authorities to strengthen compliance to reduce illegal selling of crocodile meat.

Said Natalia Rossi, WCS Cuba Program Manager: “This workshop was important because it enabled the second release of Cuban crocodiles into the wild and motivated all participants to do even more to save this critically endangered species. Our workshop was fundamental to bring everyone together to share the work being done to save the Cuban crocodile.”

The critically endangered Cuban crocodile has the smallest, most restricted geographic distribution among all living crocodilian species, being only found in parts of the Zapata and Lanier swamps. Historically it was found throughout the Zapata Peninsula, but indiscriminate hunting for skins beginning in the second half of the 19th century and lasting until the early 1960s decimated most populations. Today, Cuban crocodiles inhabit a territory of about 77,600 hectares (191,700 acres), sharing habitat with the American crocodile and the hybrids of both species.

WCS’s John Thorbjarnarson began working on Cuban crocodiles in the 1990s, and WCS’s Bronx Zoo was the first U.S. zoo to successfully breed Cuban crocodiles. The first one hatched in 1983; six more hatched in 1984, and 21 in 1985. There has been no reproduction since then, but the zoo has a new young pair of crocodiles that will be introduced to each other late this year.

Kevin Torregrosa, Herpetology Collections Manager for WCS’s Bronx Zoo, attended the workshop to establish collaboration opportunities with individuals working with crocodiles in the breeding centers as well as with wild populations.

Said Torregrosa: “Cuba is a fairly isolated island and getting the chance to see the conservation effort in practice was very enlightening. I believe the Cubans were very happy to have the opportunity to show the international community the work that they have been doing.”

Gigantic Jurassic crocodile discovered in Madagascar


This video from Italy says about itself:

Reconstructing the skull of Razanandrongobe sakalavae

4 July 2017

Computed tomography of the fossil cranial bones of Razanandrongobe sakalavae (this is the name of this Jurassic crocodylomorph) provided information on the tooth replacement process and tooth/root size. The largest dentary tooth is 14 cm long and the largest premaxillary tooth measures 15 cm. CT data also allowed to 3-D print the missing counterlateral bones at FabLab Milan, and so to reconstruct the front of the skull at the Natural History Museum of Milan. Technician Andrea Passoni mounts the bone pieces.

Video: Cristiano Dal Sasso.

From ScienceDaily:

Gigantic crocodile with T. rex teeth was a top land predator of the Jurassic in Madagascar

Paleontologists document the features of a giant crocodile relative — the largest and oldest known ‘notosuchian‘, predating the other forms by 42 million years

July 4, 2017

Summary: Little is known about the origin and early evolution of the Notosuchia, hitherto unknown in the Jurassic period. New research on fossils from Madagascar begin to fill the gap in a million-year-long ghost lineage. Deep and massive jaw bones armed with enormous serrated teeth that are similar in size and shape to those of a T. rex strongly suggest that these animals fed also on hard tissue such as bone and tendon.

Little is known about the origin and early evolution of the Notosuchia, hitherto unknown in the Jurassic period. New research on fossils from Madagascar, published in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ by Italian and French paleontologists, begin to fill the gap in a million-year-long ghost lineage.

Deep and massive jaw bones armed with enormous serrated teeth that are similar in size and shape to those of a T-rex strongly suggest that these animals fed also on hard tissue such as bone and tendon. The full name of the predatory crocodyliform (nicknamed ‘Razana’) is Razanandrongobe sakalavae, which means “giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava region.”

A combination of anatomical features clearly identify this taxon as a Jurassic notosuchian, close to the South American baurusuchids and sebecids, that were highly specialized predators of terrestrial habits, different from present-day crocodilians in having a deep skull and powerful erect limbs. “Like these and other gigantic crocs from the Cretaceous, ‘Razana’ could outcompete even theropod dinosaurs, at the top of the food chain,” says Cristiano Dal Sasso, of the Natural History Museum of Milan.

Razanandrongobe sakalavae is by far the oldest — and possibly the largest — representative of the Notosuchia, documenting one of the earliest events of exacerbated increase in body size along the evolutionary history of the group.

“Its geographic position during the period when Madagascar was separating from other landmasses is strongly suggestive of an endemic lineage. At the same time, it represents a further signal that the Notosuchia originated in southern Gondwana,” remarks co-author Simone Maganuco.

Many baby crocodiles discovered in Egyptian mummy


Baby crocodiles discovered

From the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden):

Egyptian giant crocodile mummy is full of surprises

15 November 2016

The three-metre-long mummified Egyptian ‘giant crocodile’, one of the finest animal mummies in the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden), turns out to be literally filled with surprises. Examination of detailed new 3D CT scans has led to the conclusion that, besides the two crocodiles previously spotted inside the wrappings, the mummy also contains dozens of individually wrapped baby crocodiles.

Exceptional discovery

This is an exceptional discovery: there are only a few known crocodile mummies of this kind anywhere in the world. Starting on 18 November, museum visitors can perform an interactive virtual autopsy on the crocodile mummy and the mummy of an Egyptian priest. On a large touch screen, they can examine the mummies layer by layer, learning about their age, physical features, and the mummification process. The amulets placed inside the linen wrappings with the mummies can also be examined in detail and from all sides in 3D.

Virtual autopsy in museum galleries

A new scan of the large crocodile mummy was recently performed at the Academic Medical Centre (AMC) in Amsterdam. An earlier CT scan in 1996 had shown that there are two juvenile crocodiles inside a mummy that looks like one large crocodile. The Swedish company Interspectral, which specializes in high-tech interactive 3D visualizations, has converted the results of the new scan into a spectacular 3D application and thus detected the dozens of baby crocodiles.

A reference to new life after death?

The museum’s Egyptologists suspect that the crocodiles of different ages were mummified together as a reference to the ancient Egyptian belief in rejuvenation and new life after death. Another possibility is that no large crocodiles were available at a time when they were needed as offerings to the gods. The mummy was given the shape of one large crocodile with various kinds of stuffing: bits of wood, wads of linen, plant stems, and rope.The ancient Egyptians mummified all sorts of animals, usually to pay homage to a particular deity that could manifest in animal form. For instance, crocodiles were offered to the god Sobek.

Museum’s curators excited about the find

The museum’s curators are excited about this remarkable find: “What was intended as a tool for museum visitors, has yet produced new scientific insights. When we started work on this project, we weren’t really expecting any new discoveries. After all, the mummy had already been scanned. It was a big surprise that so many baby crocodiles could be detected with high-tech 3D scans and this interactive visualization.”