‘Tight-rope walking’ crocodile may have stood on two legs: study

1 / 2
Above, an artist’s impression of the crocodile’s ancestor after fossilized footprints of the crocodile were unearthed by researchers in South Korea. (University of Colorado Denver/AFP)
2 / 2
Above, an artist’s impression of the crocodile’s ancestor after fossilized footprints of the crocodile were unearthed by researchers in South Korea. (University of Colorado Denver/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 12 June 2020

‘Tight-rope walking’ crocodile may have stood on two legs: study

  • Footprints found at the Jinju Formation in modern day South Korea were analyzed

PARIS: Ancient crocodiles — long thought to have walked on all fours like their modern-day cousins — may have got around on two legs, according to new research published Thursday.
A team of researchers from China, Australia and the US analyzed footprints found at the Jinju Formation in modern day South Korea, a rich archaeological dig site that has led to the discovery of ancient species of lizards, spiders and tiny raptors dating back 120 million years.
They believe the footprints may have been made by a three-meter (10-foot) long crocodile ancestor — called Batrachopus grandis — that walked around “like a crocodile balancing on a tight-rope,” according to Kyung Soo Kim from the Chinju National University of Education.
“They were moving in the same way as many dinosaurs, but the footprints were not made by dinosaurs,” Kim said.
While the researchers initially thought the tracks were those of an ancient pterosaur — a winged dinosaur that roamed Earth until 66 million years ago — they more likely belonged to a particularly large and previously undiscovered member of the crocodylomorph family.
The 24-centimeter-long (10-inch) track prints give a sense of the size of these croc relatives.
Their legs, according to Anthony Romilio, a paleontologist at the University of Queensland and one of the study’s authors, would have been about the same size as those of an adult human. But their bodies were “over three meters in length.”
This would have made them about twice as large as relatives from the same time period.
The ancient crocodiles most likely would have walked flat on their feet, digging their heels into the earth much like humans do — leaving deep, narrow impressions.
Reconstructions of the crocodiles show they had a low center of gravity.
The lack of handprints and tail-drag marks found at the dig site, as well as the animal’s narrow gait, also indicated bipedal movement, Romilio added.
The finding could shed light on how other creatures from the Cretaceous period — such as pterosaurs — would have moved about, the authors added.
They noted that footprints from other fossil sites — such as the Haman Formation, also in South Korea — may have to be re-examined in light of the new discovery.
The study was published in Nature Scientific Reports.


Renaissance master Raphael did a nose-job in self-portrait, face reconstruction suggests

Updated 11 August 2020

Renaissance master Raphael did a nose-job in self-portrait, face reconstruction suggests

  • Professor Mattia Falconi: ‘He certainly made his nose look more refined’
  • Raphael died in Rome in 1520 aged 37, and was buried in Rome’s Pantheon

ROME: Raphael probably didn’t like his nose, and replaced it with an idealized version in his famous self-portrait.
That is the conclusion of Rome University scientists who produced a 3D computer reconstruction of the Renaissance master’s face from a plaster cast of his presumed skull made in 1833.
In that year, the remains believed to be those of the man hailed by his contemporaries as “the divine one” because he sought perfection through his work were last exhumed.
“He certainly made his nose look more refined,” said Professor Mattia Falconi, a molecular biologist at the university’s Tor Vergata campus. “His nose was, let’s say, slightly more prominent.”
Raphael died in Rome in 1520 aged 37, probably from pneumonia, and was buried in Rome’s Pantheon.
The self-portrait, which normally hangs in Florence’s Uffizi gallery but is currently in Rome for an exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of his death, was done about 15 years earlier, when he was clean-shaven.
It features the more aquiline nose that Raphael also included in other works in which he painted himself.
The reconstruction is of the way he may have looked closer to his death, when he wore a beard.
Falconi, along with forensic anthropologists and other experts, reconstructed the face with tissue layering techniques used by crime investigators.
The result was a face similar to that of the master on an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi, one of his students.
“When we finished, I said to myself ‘I’ve seen that face before,’” Falconi, 57, said in a telephone interview.
Another similarity is with the subject of “Portrait of a Man,” painted between 1512 and 1515 by Sebastiano del Piombo, a Raphael contemporary and rival.
For centuries there has been speculation that the bones exhumed in 1833 and reburied in a re-styled crypt may not have been Raphael’s because some of his students were later buried near him.
But Falconi believes the research points to an around 85 percent chance that the skull is Raphael’s because of similarities with most of the artist’s face as depicted by him and his contemporaries.
Not everyone was pleased with Falconi’s research. An art critic for the Rome newspaper La Repubblica said it had produced a cheap “videogame version” of Raphael.
Falconi said he hoped the tomb can be opened again someday for direct tests on the skull. This could resolve several mysteries, including confirming what caused his death.