To study the Nile crocodile, researchers led by Fordham University's Evon Hekkala and the University of Florida's Matthew Shirley sequenced 123 contemporary Nile crocodiles and 57 tissue samples from mummified crocodiles, including ones found in ancient Egyptian temples, says a press release from the American Museum of Natural History, where the researchers did some of their work. As they report in Molecular Ecology, the researchers found that there are two distinct species of Nile crocodiles, an ancestral western clade and a derived eastern one that split about 8 million years ago. "Crocodiles are often portrayed as 'living fossils,' but that is a misnomer," says George Amato, director of AMNH's Sackler Institute in a statement. "Although they may look ancient and unchanging, the genetic evidence shows that these crocodiles are dynamic and adaptable and as modern as any other species alive today." The authors add that conservation approaches may need to be altered to reflect this new knowledge.
A New Kind of Crocodile
Sep 23, 2011