Nuclear methods confirm rare find of crocodile that ate dinosaur cub

Graphic abstract. Credit: DOI: 10.1016 /

Advanced nuclear and synchrotron imaging has confirmed that a 93-million-strong crocodile found in Central Queensland ate a juvenile dinosaur based on remains found in fossilized stomach contents.

The discovery of the fossils in 2010 was made by the Australian Dinosaur Museum (QLD) in collaboration with the University of New England, which publishes its research in the journal Godwana Research.

The study was conducted by Fr. great team led by Dr. Matt White of the Australian Museum of the Dinosaur Age and the University of New England.

The crocodile Confractosuchus sauroktonos, which translates as “broken crocodile dinosaur killer”, was about 2 to 2.5 meters long. “Broken” refers to the fact that the crocodile was found in a massive destroyed boulder.

Early scanning of neutron images of one fragment of a boulder rock revealed in the intestines the bones of a small juvenile dinosaur the size of a chicken, an ornithopod that has not yet been officially identified by species.

Senior Instrument Scientist Dr. Joseph Bevitt explained that dinosaur bones were completely embedded in dense iron rock and were accidentally discovered when the sample was exposed to neutron penetrating force at ANSTO.

Dingo, Australia’s only neutron imaging device, can be used to create two- and three-dimensional images of a solid object and reveal hidden features.

“During the first scan in 2015, I noticed a bone buried there that looked like a chicken bone with a hook, and immediately thought it was a dinosaur,” Dr. Bevitt explained.

“Human eyes have never seen him before, for he was and remains completely hidden in the rock.”

The discovery led to further, high resolution scanning using Dingo and synchrotron x-ray imaging and medical line for a number of years.

“The 3D-digital scans obtained with the Imaging and Medical Beamline controlled the crocodile’s physical training, which was impossible without a clear knowledge of where the bones are,” Dr. Bevit said.

Nuclear methods confirm rare finding that crocodile ate baby dinosaur

Unprepared samples of rocks containing a fossilized crocodile. Right: 3D images of a crocodile in an aviary, reconstructed using imaging and a medical arc line, and inserted stomach contents detected using a Dingo neutron imaging device. Credit: Australian Organization for Nuclear Science and Technology (ANSTO)

Conversely, fragile samples had to be carefully reduced to a size through which synchrotron X-rays could penetrate for high-quality scanning.

“The results were remarkable in that they give a complete picture of the crocodile and its latest food, partially digested young dinosaur.”

It is believed that this is the first time that a synchrotron beam has been used in this way.

IMBL instrument scientist Dr. Anton Maksimenko helped the investigative team meet power constraints and set up the setup to successfully scan large samples.

Dr. Bevit explained that the team used the full intensity of the synchrotron X-ray beam to achieve results on the dense rock.

Together Dr. Bevit and White did everything data processing and developed new software mechanisms to process and integrate all datasets of this fragmented crocodile. Thus, the crocodile was reconstructed as a digital 3D puzzle.

To confirm that the dinosaur was actually inside the crocodile’s entrails, the team observed filled worm tunnels, plant roots and geological features that stretched between the rock fragments.

“The chemistry of the breed has provided evidence,” Dr. Bevit said.

Investigators believe the crocodile was most likely caught up in a mega-flood, buried and died suddenly.

“Fossils have been found in a large boulder. Concretions are often formed when organic matter, or, say, a crocodile, sinks to the bottom of a river. Because the environment is rich in minerals, within days the dirt around the body can solidify and harden due to bacteria “Dr. Bevitt explained.”

The specimens are now on display at the Australian Dinosaur Museum, Winton.

Fossils of crocodiles found in Portsmouth waterfront

Additional information:
Matt A. White et al., Abdominal contents show that chalk crocodiles ate dinosaurs, A study of Gondwana (2022). DOI: 10.1016 /

Citation: Nuclear methods confirm the rare find of a crocodile that ate a dinosaur cub (2022, February 15), obtained on February 16, 2022 from devoured.html

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