A giant crocodile-like creature was driven to extinction by humans in China 200 years ago

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A massive, long-lost species of crocodile that appears to have been wiped out by humans just 200 years ago has been discovered in China.

Scientists estimate that this extinct species grew to around 20 feet in length and was hunted by the Bronze Age Chinese following conflict with humans.

The researchers announced the discovery in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. They showed evidence of an entirely new species with various odd features based on two specimens dating to between 1400 and 1000 BC.

There are three main groups of crocodilians: crocodiles, alligators and a group known as Gavialidae which have long, thin snouts. The new species was part of the latter group, having a long, narrow snout like Indian and Malay river crocodiles. Scientists have called its features “weird”.

More than 12 chop marks were found on the skull of one of the specimens found in the river systems of southern China. “The purpose of cutting the skull, especially around the eye and the area surrounding the brain, would be to put this individual down,” said lead author Masaya Ijima of Clemson University’s Department of Biological Sciences, in South Carolina. Newsweek.

“Cutting the neck vertebra in half would most likely decapitate this individual.”

Skeleton and artist restoration of Hanyusuchus. The animal was probably wiped out by humans centuries ago.
Hikaru Amemiya

The Bronze Age was named because of the expansion of metalworking using the metal in various regions including China. The authors said bronze weapons like axes were considered a status symbol in China at the time and could also have been used to decapitate crocodiles.

Ijima said there is direct evidence of human-crocodilian conflict in Bronze Age China, including examples from historical literature. These include texts dating from the early first millennium to the middle of the second millennium CE.

The study said that in one case, government officials used sacrificial rituals in the Han River Valley. “The ancient Cantonese hatred of crocodilians has lasted at least three millennia since the Shang dynasty,” the study says.

“According to 10th-century literature, a government official sent 100 troops to the Han River Delta in Guangdong Province, caught the problematic crocodilian who ate a boy, and killed him in public,” Ijima said. .

Along with human conflict, researchers said habitat loss and the encroachment of agriculture and man-made settlements eventually drove the species to extinction.

The researchers say the new species could represent a missing link in the evolution of crocodilians, showing characteristics of Indian and Malay gharials. This filled a gap in the Gavialidae family tree that had previously puzzled scientists who studied the animals.

Ijima also said the discovery could help conservation efforts for existing crocodilian species: “Crocodilians are top predators and play a central role in maintaining the freshwater ecosystem. At the same time, it is true that some of the modern crocodilians are just reptiles. who regularly consume humans.

“We call for maintaining the balance between conserving endangered species and managing human-crocodile conflict in the future.”

Image of a Gharial Crocodile
Image of a Gharial Crocodile in India. The study found a new species of crocodile that has been extirpated in recent years and exhibited characteristics like that of the Indian gharial.
RichLindie/Getty Images
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