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Only a few million years ago, a pre-historic crocodile measuring more than five metres – dubbed “Swamp King,” ruled the South-Eastern Queensland waterways.
From fossils first unearthed in the 1980s, University of Queensland researchers identified the new species of Pre-Historic croc, which they named Paludirex vincenti.
University of Queensland PhD candidate Jorgo Ristevski said they named the species after Geoff Vincent who discovered the Giant fossilized skill near the town of Chinchilla.
“In Latin, ‘Paludirex’ means ‘Swamp-King’, and ‘vincenti’ honours the late Mr Vincent,” Ristevski said.
The fossilized skull was on display in the Queensland Museum for several years, before it was donated to the Chinchilla Museum in 2011.
“The ‘Swamp-King’ was one intimidating croc. Its fossilized skull measures around 65 centimetres, so we estimate Paludirex vincenti was at least five meters long.”
“The largest Crocodilian today is the Indo-Pacific crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, which grows to about the same size. But Paludirex had a broader, more heavy-set skull so it would’ve resembled an Indo-Pacific crocodile on steroids,” he added.
Capable of preying on giant pre-historic marsupials, Paludirex was one of the top predators in Australia a few million years ago.
Ristevski’s supervisor, Dr Steve Salisbury, said various species of Pre-Historic crocodilians had existed in Australia.
Dr Salisbury said, “Crocs have been an important part of Australia’s fauna for millions of years, but the two species we have today – Crocodylus porosus and Crocodylus johnstoni – are only recent arrivals, and were not part of the endemic croc fauna that existed here from about 55 million years ago. Whether Paludirex vincenti went extinct as a result of competition with species like Crocodylus porosus is hard to say. The alternative is that it went extinct as the climate change dried, and the river systems it once inhabited contracted – we’re currently investigating both scenarios.”
The research has been published in the open-access journal PeerJ.
(Edited by Mandeep Joshi)