A mass prehistoric “swamp king” crocodile identified in Australia

Sydney, 23 December (IANS): A prehistoric crocodile more than five meters long, called the “swamp king,” ruled the southeastern waterways of Queensland in Australia just a few million years ago, new research has shown.

Researchers at the University of Queensland have identified a new species of prehistoric crocodile – called Paludirex vincenti – from fossils first discovered in the 1980s.

“His fossilized skull measures about 65 centimeters, so we estimate that Paludirex vincenti was at least five meters long,” said Jorgo Ristevski of the University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences.

“The largest crocodile today is the Indo-Pacific crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, which grows to about the same size.

“But Paludirex had a wider, heavier-set skull, so it would look like an Indo-Pacific crocodile on steroids.”

Paludirex was one of the main predators in Australia millions of years ago, capable of preying on giant prehistoric marsupials.

Various species of prehistoric crocodiles existed in Australia, said study co-author Steve Salisbury of the University of Queensland.

“Crocs have been an important ingredient in Australian fauna for millions of years,” Salisbury said.

“But the two species we have today – Crocodylus porosus and Crocodylus johnstoni – have only recently arrived and were not part of the endemic croc fauna that has existed here since about 55 million years ago.”

Ristevski said that the species was named after Geoff Vincent, who discovered a giant fossilized skull near the town of Chinchilla.

“In Latin,‘ Paludirex ’means‘ swamp king ’and‘ vincenti ’honors the late Mr Vincent,” he said.

The research was published in the open-access journal PeerJ.

“It’s hard to say whether Paludirex vincenti became extinct as a result of competition with species like Crocodylus porosus,” Salisbury said.

“The alternative is that it became extinct as the climate dried up, and the river systems it once inhabited have shrunk – we’re currently exploring both scenarios.”