Because the world around us has existed much longer than we have, it’s not uncommon for scientists to come across remnants of the old world. Known as fossils, these remnants are often encased and preserved in rocks or buried deep within the ground, where they manage to evade decomposition and tell a story when discovered.
Fossils can be of many different things, and aren’t just limited to dinosaur bones. In fact, fossils have told us a lot about what kinds of different animals had existed alongside the dinosaurs. Among those are crocodiles, which are still around today.
During a recent expedition in Portugal, researchers were fortunate enough to come across a unique find while perusing the country’s cliffs. When they came across a dinosaur nest, crocodile eggs were discovered inside that are estimated to be around 152 million years old, which is older than any other crocodile egg fossil discovered to date.
Image Credit: Octávio Mateus/PLOS ONE
The findings, which cite that the eggs were laid by a crocodylomorph during the late Jurassic period, appear in the journal PLOS ONE.
"The fact that they are from the Late Jurassic makes these eggs the oldest crocodilian eggs known so far," lead author João Russo from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal said to BBC News. "This new discovery from Portugal extends the knowledge of this type of egg by approximately 40 million years."
"The fossil record tells us that crocodiles and their relatives (forming the larger group of crocodylomorphs) were much more diverse in the past, with different feeding habits, ecological niche distribution or morphology," he continued.
The study points out that the fossilized eggs were very similar to those of modern crocodile eggs, which suggests that perhaps the size and shape of the eggs hasn’t changed much over this long span of time.
Crocodylomorphs weren’t exactly the same as modern crocodiles, but they were very similar. They are essentially the early common ancestors of the crocodiles we see today.
While these eggs are certainly record-breakers in terms of age, that’s not the only major detail. Fossilized eggs are rarely discovered without damage, and these are a unique exception.
Full and unbroken, these eggs give researchers a closer look at what crocodile eggs looked like back in the day and a rare glipse through the window of time.