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Man-eating crocodile may have preyed on ancient humans

A newly discovered horned crocodile may have preyed upon our human ancestors in Africa.

Scientists have even found bones from members of the human lineage bearing tooth marks from this reptile, whose scientific name, Crocodylus anthropophagus, means “man-eating crocodile.”

This predator, which lived some 1.84 million years ago, possessed a deep snout that would have made it look more robust than modern crocodiles. It also had prominent triangular horns.

“They would have been visible mostly from the side as projections behind the eye,” said researcher Christopher Brochu, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Iowa. “If you looked at them from the front, you would have seen ridges projecting upwards.”

A couple of living species of crocodile have similar horns, such as the Cuban and Siamese crocodiles. “Males will use these in mating season to show off,” Brochu explained. “While submerged they kind of tip their head forward, showing off the prominence of their horns to females.”

Scientists found a partial skull and skeleton of the crocodile at Olduvai Gorge in the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania in 2007. Past research there famously unearthed numerous fossils of extinct human species and their stone tools, strengthening the argument that our lineage originated in Africa.

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