In 2011, a team of paleontologists and volunteers conducted a search near Winton, Queensland, Australia in search of sauropod bones. According to Dr. Matt White of the University of New England, the specimen discovered was “not very good”. However, after taking what they could, the scientists decided to let a front-end loader continue the work. A little over a meter deep, the machine hit a concretion which turned out to contain a fossilized crocodile 93 million years old.
The amazing thing about this discovery is that the crocodile fossil was not alone. The remains of a small dinosaur were indeed found in the stomach of the animal. The crocodile was about 2.5 meters long, probably a subadult, while the dinosaur must have weighed between 1 and 1.7 kilograms.
The fossil was somewhat damaged by the front-end loader, but paleontologists were delighted with the discovery of a new species of crocodile.
A remarkable discovery
After discovering the crocodile, White and his team dug it up using more appropriate tools. The crocodile skeleton was surprisingly complete with a small ornithopod dinosaur in the belly. This one was too incomplete to identify, but according to the researchers, it could belong to the same species as that of the Lark Quarry track. As for the crocodile, it is of a new kind and has been baptized Confractosuchus sauroktonosor “broken dinosaur killer”.
According to White, the two fossils were too closely related to separate without damaging them. It was through a micro-CT scanner that they were able to confirm that the dinosaur was probably the crocodile’s last meal. One of the dinosaur’s femurs was broken, an injury likely from a severe bite.
An extraordinary diet
For a long time, scientists have thought that small and medium-sized dinosaurs may have been part of the diet of certain crocodile species during the Jurassic and Cretaceous. However, only the stomach contents of two extinct species of crocodile have been found. One of the contents was unidentifiable and contained a smaller crocodylomorph.
Regarding this discovery made in 2011, the reason why the crocodile died after its meal remains a mystery. According to White, since its tail was not found, it likely could have been preyed upon by a larger predator.