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CROCODILES

Of all the reptiles alive today, crocodiles and alligators may be the least changed from their prehistoric ancestors of the late Cretaceous period, over 65 million years ago--although the even earlier crocodiles of the Triassic and Jurassic periods sported some distinctly un-crocodile-like features, such as bipedal postures and vegetarian diets.

Along with pterosaurs and dinosaurs, crocodiles were an offshoot of the archosaurs, the "ruling lizards" of the early to middle Triassic period. What distinguished crocodiles from the first dinosaurs was the shape and musculature of their jaws, which tended to be much more deadly, as well as their relatively splayed limbs (as opposed to the straight, "locked in" legs of theropod dinosaurs). It was only well into the Mesozoic Era that crocodiles evolved the three main traits with which they're associated today: stubby legs, sleek bodies, and marine lifestyles.


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