EGU Blogs

Climate Change

Crocodiles feeling the heat of extinction

New research on crocodiles shows that a combination of changing sea levels and temperatures were responsible for driving their biodiversity over millions of years.

Living crocodiles are threatened by climate change, with 10 out of 23 species at a high risk of extinction. As ectotherms, animals which require external sources of heat to function, they are sensitive to changes in temperature. With 2-4 degrees of increasing global temperatures predicted over the next century, these ruling reptiles have never been more threatened.

The fossil record is our gateway into understanding the evolutionary history of crocodiles. They actually have a long and complex ancestry, going back around 250 million years. During this time, crocodiles and their ancestors, known collectively as crocodyliforms, diversified into an array of forms, including 12-15 foot giants, dwarfed species no bigger than a cat. Some groups even took to the seas, evolving sleek and ‘dolphin-like’ forms, including flippers! The origin of modern crocodiles, known as crocodylians, was around 80 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. During this time, most of the Earth was experiencing high temperatures, and known as a ‘greenhouse world’.

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IPC4 Day 1 – Using the past to inform the present

Welcome to the fourth International Palaeontology Congress! 900 palaeontologists have piled into the land of steak, sun, and malbec in Mendoza, Argentina, for the biggest palaeontology conference that draws from all parts of the field.

What I want to do with these posts is just provide snapshot summaries of the talks I’ve been at to provide a window into the conference and the amazing diversity of research being conducted by a global team of awesome researchers. It’s not all just dinosaurs you know! Results will not be discussed in any detail for obvious reasons.

The first symposium I attended was on the “Coevolution of the Earth and life: the role of the physical environment in species’ evolution.”

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The early evolution of dinosaurs

Dinosaurs. What springs to mind when they’re mentioned? Colossal, towering sauropods? Packs of feisty feathered fiends? Or huge herds of hadrosaurs, chomping their way across the plains of long-lost worlds? Most, including myself, will automatically default to any one of these images when dinosaurs come up in conversation (what, you mean it’s not that frequent for normal people?) But we often neglect to think the earliest dinosaurs, spectacular organisms that gave birth to the most successful, and on-going, terrestrial vertebrate radiation of all time.

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