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Crocodiles and dinosaurs in Australia

Are crocodiles dinosaurs?

Crocodiles are in the news again, for all the wrong reasons.

They are reptiles like lizards, turtles and snakes and they have a very ancient lineage.

Crocodiles belong to the clade Archosaur. A clade is a group of organisms that have a common ancestor. Interestingly, Archosaurs also include dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

The earliest fossil crocodile known, lived more than 300 million years ago and the crocodilians developed alongside the dinosaurs.

Like birds, which are now considered dinosaur descendants, crocodilians survived the K-T extinction, 66 million years ago.

Why aren’t crocodiles considered dinosaurs also?

There are a number of reasons particularly surrounding the Archosaur “family tree” and when crocodiles branched off. For you and I, the answer is fairly simple.

A key aspect of dinosaur morphology, or shape, if you like, is that their hind legs are positioned directly under their body. This is true for birds, for instance, but not for crocodiles.

For this reason, also, pterosaurs, flying reptiles from the time of dinosaurs and prehistoric marine reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs, pliosaurs and plesiosaurs are not dinosaurs.

In recent years, crocodiles have appeared in our news as the culprits in attacks on humans. This shouldn’t surprise us and, in fact, crocodiles are fairly easy to avoid.

Those who’ve been attacked took unnecessary risks either through bravado or ignorance. In Australia, the warnings about estuarine crocodiles are clear and simple.

Are crocodiles dinosaurs?

On a bank of the Annan River in Far North Queensland is Blackie, the five-metre male crocodile that is said to rule the area. Photo: Jocelyn Watts

 

 

Where are crocodiles found in Australia?

You can expect crocodiles in any watercourse or basin from Fraser Island, across the northern coastline, to Shark Bay in WA.

Don’t go in or on the water, even in small boats or skis and kayaks. Don’t develop habits such as fishing, cleaning fish or dumping fish or meat scraps in the same place regularly. Crocodiles are smart and they learn.

Crocodiles are quite common in Australian tropical waters and the largest grow to at least 5 metres. You are not going to survive a meeting with an animal that size.

How big are crocodiles?

The largest measured crocodile was Lolong, which was captured and measured at 6.17 metres. Lolong was captured in the Philippines. He was suspected of the deaths of several people in his vicinity.

There have been claims of bigger crocodiles, including Krys. He was shot in 1958 near Normanton in Far North Queensland and was claimed to be 8.64 metres long. The accuracy of this measurement is contested though.

There is a skull in the Paris Museum that is 76cm long. Lolong’s skull was only 70cm.

Returning to prehistoric crocodilians, the largest known was Sarcosuchus imperator which may have grown to 12 metres.

Feature photo: Crocodile in the Northern Territory of Australia, by Jocelyn Watts.

Rock around the croc at Cooktown Discovery Festival

Would you like to discover Cooktown’s history? 

When the 2017 Discovery Festival at Cooktown kicked off, even the wildlife put on a stunning show to welcome the deluge of visitors. 

Spotted on a bank of the Annan River just south of the town in Far North Queensland was Blackie, the five-metre male crocodile that rules the area.

Last time I visited Cooktown, locals said I’d catch of glimpse of Blackie but he was nowhere to be seen. He didn’t even offer a few bubbles of water to suggest his snout was just below the surface.

This week, however, he was there in full view where I could see him from the safety of a high bank on the opposite side of the river.

Rock around the croc at Cooktown

Blackie makes an appearance.

Organisers of this year’s Discovery Festival also went above the average watermark with a full weekend of festivities in celebration of James Cook’s landing in 1770.

Located at the mouth of the Endeavour River on the Cape York Peninsula, Cooktown is where James Cook beached his ship for repairs after sustaining serious damage on a nearby coral reef.  

In 1873, the town was settled as a supply port for the goldfields along the Palmer River. It was known as Cook’s Town until 1874.

Located about 330 kilometres north of Cairns, Cooktown today has a population of about 2500. Numbers swell radically every June for the annual Discovery Festival.

This year’s jam-packed program included activities and events for all ages starting with a Mayor’s Maroon Community Ball on Friday night. The 1RAR Army Band provided the music and again entertained crowds in Anzac Park on Saturday.

Fire dancers, fireworks, buskers, paintball, markets, street parade, helicopter flights, harbour cruises, dancing, workshops, competitions, tours and a wet t-shirt competition were just some of the other highlights.

The festival culminated on Sunday with a costumed re-enactment of James Cook’s historic landing in Bicentennial Park where still in place is the rock to which His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour was tied in 1770.

A huge crowd gathered to watch the impressive show that preceded a ceremonial firing of a full-size cannon by a lucky spectator who won the opportunity in a ticket draw.

Below is a glimpse of festival fun at Cooktown. To discover more about the town’s festival, visit  http://www.cook.qld.gov.au/community/events/cooktown-discovery-festival

Cooktown

 

Related Stories: 

https://jocelynwatts.com/cooktown/

 

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