evolution is weird
Crocodiles are some of the most terrifying predators on the planet. It's tough to imagine one of them munching on a nice salad, rather than anything from waterfowl to small elephants. But new research suggests that at one point, that's exactly what they did.
According to analysis of fossilized teeth from the age of the dinosaurs, some ancient crocodiles had much more varied diets than the strictly-meat-eating versions we know today, Vice reports. The researched, published in the journal Current Biology on Thursday, found evidence of some extinct species related to modern-day crocs that were omnivorous, and some that were even strict herbivores.
Scientists examined 146 teeth from 16 extinct "crocodyliforms" — a category that encompasses alligators, crocodiles, and other similar reptiles. Remarkably, crocodyliforms evolved into vegetarians "at least three times, and possibly as many as six," Vice explained.
But when mass extinction wiped out the dinosaurs, it seems to have done the same to herbivorous crocs; only their meat-eating relatives survived, evolving into the crocodiles we know and today. If their places were switched, maybe crocs would be a fixture at petting zoos instead of a feared predator.
Read more about this find at Vice.