The crocodiles that live today remain nearly unchanged from their ancient ancestors who lived alongside dinosaurs in the Cretaceous and Jurassic period, nearly 200 million years ago. A time when humans weren’t yet in the picture! Recent scientific research focusing on the stop-start pattern of evolution explains why the crocodile remains so similar to its ancestors.
Evolution Triggered by Environmental Changes
Fossil records show that prehistory saw a wider variety of crocodiles. Some of them were dinosaur-sized giants, some were serpentine, while others were even plant-eaters. However, the remaining species today sees a very small diversity as opposed to many other animal species. During their research, the scientists from the University of Bristol came to the conclusion that the crocodile species follows a stop-start evolutionary pattern. Their speed of evolution increases as the climate gets warmer and their body size gets larger.
The Course of the Research
Dr. Max Stockdale, the lead author of the research, explains how they utilized a machine learning algorithm in their analysis to estimate how much the crocodile species has changed over a certain amount of time. The measurements that were relevant to the research were the size of the animals, how quickly they grow, their food intake requirements, and how likely they were to become extinct. The results show that crocodiles have reached a body type that’s versatile and efficient enough not to require further change for survival purposes.
Crocodiles Have a Slow Rate of Change
This species follows what’s called ‘punctuated equilibrium’, which means that they evolve rapidly only when the environment changes significantly enough to warrant adaptation. They survived the extinction event that caused the dinosaurs to perish. They thrived in the warmer conditions of the period because they can’t regulate their body temperature and need warmth from the environment. Further research will focus on why some crocodile species died out while others remained.
2021 Historical Discovery: Three Amazing and Important Findings
Every year, archeologists and scientists find new relics that provide us with a glimpse into the past and help us better understand mankind’s history. Whether the discovery is made by a complete amateur or is the result of years of diligent research, it gives us answers to numerous questions and theories. It tells us more about our ancestors and their way of life.
Here are three important and fascinating archeological discoveries made in 2021.
1. Unknown Dead Sea Scrolls
In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd found the Dead Sea Scrolls in a cave in Israel. They are among the most significant archeological findings of the 20th century because they are the earliest known Hebrew biblical texts. In 2021, after more than six decades, researchers found new fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls at a site known as the Cave of Horrors.
The site was first explored during the 1950s and got its macabre name because of the discovery of countless skeletons. The cave was the final resting place of numerous Jewish men, women, and children who were murdered by the Romans during the Bar Kokhba Rebellion. Now the new fragments can help archeologists learn more about the early days of Christianity.
2. A New Discovery About Stonehenge
Stonehenge, an ancient circle of stone monoliths, is one of mankind’s most enduring mysteries. But every year, scientists are learning more and more about the ancient structure, and 2021 was no exception. This year, archeologists found a former stone circle in Wales, which closely matches the dimensions of Stonehenge’s inner ring.
This gives credit to the theory that one of Britain’s most famous landmarks was moved to Salisbury Plain after being built at another site. Furthermore, the stone circle found in Wales predates Stonehenge by four centuries, which seems unbelievable because it matches perfectly the legend about Merlin stealing the monument and bringing it to England.
3. Civilization and Art Outside Europe
In 2021, archeologists made important findings in Africa, Asia, and North America that may shift the Eurocentric preconceptions about civilizations and prehistory. Researchers found evidence that Wonderwerk Cave was inhabited by humans more than two million years ago, which makes it the world’s oldest home.
On the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, scientists stumbled upon the world’s oldest figurative art, a cave painting depicting three wild pigs. Their discovery is believed to be 45,500 years old. Perhaps the most interesting relic was found in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park, a human footprint dating back more than 21,000 years ago, which challenges the theory about the human arrival in the Americas.
These findings only raise the question of what will be the most astounding discovery of 2022 and what new things we will learn about our past.