Some truly extraordinary creatures may well have lived alongside humanity long ago but became extinct before being recognised and catalogued by modern-day science.
According to recent findings, one such beast appears to have been a hitherto-unknown species (and genus) of gharial-related gavialid crocodilian from southern China, as now revealed.
This newly-revealed species was dubbed Hanyusuchus sinensis when formally described
on 9 March 2022 in a Proceedings of the Royal
Society B paper authored by a team of researchers that included Dr . And like
the modern-day gavialid known as the gharial Gavialis gangeticus, it can be readily distinguished from typical
crocodiles and alligators by its noticeably long, thin skull and snout.
Three millennia ago, during China's Bronze Age, this very imposing 19-ft reptile was undoubtedly a top predator. However, the two subfossil specimens of it recently documented, and which date from that time period, show evidence of vicious weaponised attacks by humans and possibly even ritual beheading. Clearly, this species was seen as a major threat by the area's expanding human population back then.
Moreover, based upon a lengthy history of chronicles relating to crocodile killings there, Prof. Minoru Yoneda, of the University Museum at the University of Tokyo, suspects that H. sinensis was systematically wiped out via prolonged, ruthless hunting during the past 3000 years, but with its last representatives conceivably dying as recently as just a few centuries ago.
Tragically, therefore, this remarkable animal may have been lost to science, and thence to the prospect of saving it from extinction, by only the narrowest of chronological margins.