Crocs Alligators and Their Ancestors
Kenneth J. McCormick
The difference between crocodiles and alligators has puzzled ordinary folks for centuries, but the experts do know the difference. I say who cares? If one of these creatures takes a bite out of you, it won't make much difference which type did it. On a more serious note, here is how you tell the difference:
1. The snout of an alligator is much thinner than that of a croc.
2. While crocodiles are found all over the world, the only place that you will find alligators is in China and the southwest U.S. I find this very curious.
3. A crocodiles lower teeth can always be seen while an alligator's teeth fit together and are not visible when its mouth is closed.
People can get fooled easily by Alligators; they look lazy and slow but can actually run faster than a human. They have a way of getting up on their toes and springing ahead. This reminds me of the story about the alligator that was chasing two men. The first man said to the second that he could never outrun the beast. The second replied that he didn't have to be faster than the crocodile; he had only had to outrun him. Most alligators are on the shy side and avoid people. Some crocodiles get very mad when disturbed and attack. In the U.S. you will find many alligators in states like Florida. These creatures typically reach between 12-15 feet in length. It is a lucky thing that they are on the shy side or there would be a real mess in populated areas. Crocodiles can either be fresh water or salt water crocs. The largest type of salt-water crocodile reaches about 19.5 feet and can weigh over 1 1/2 tons. A male grows larger than a female. The largest crocodile ever recorded was over 33 feet long.
I have told you all this, so you might be a little familiar with alligators and crocodiles when I talk about the newest discovery.
Scientists were very surprised when they discovered two species of hither to unknown crocodile like animals that lived over 250 million years ago. The reason that they were so surprised was they hadn't believed that such diversity existed back then. The fossils were found in the Sahara Desert. They have been named Nigerpeton and Saharastega. Scientists believe that the Sahara was still a desert back then so the puzzle is what were the animals doing there? The only solution that they can figure is that water must have existed there somewhere. Right now this is all supposition. What I mean is that it amounts to guess work and more evidence is necessary.
Both creatures are believed to have been amphibians but their body structure resembled a crocs. It is said that you would have a hard time telling the skull of Nigerpeton from that of a modern crocodile. It could keep its body almost all under water and still breathe because its nostrils were elevated. It was about 8 feet long. Saharastega wouldn't be hard to tell from a crocodile. It had a real mouth full of teeth, hundreds to be exact. Its skull was much broader and flatter. It was suspected of being a fish eater. This makes the mystery of what it was doing in the Sahara even deeper. Maybe there was some sort of river that ran through the desert back then?
Other fossils were found previously in the same region. Several other creatures were found to have existed. One was about the size of a cow and another had a head with a diameter of about 2 feet and twelve rows of teeth, ouch! This is the first time any of these creatures have been discovered. Who knows what other creatures await discovery in the same area?
Now some scientists believe that there was a much larger diversity of animals all over the globe than previously suspected.
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About the author:
Ken is the webmaster of About Facts Net, an interesting free Internet Magazine. The magazine carries articles that are suitable for the entire family and are often accompanied by photographs, video and/or audio.