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.
Sad but nonetheless interesting story Dr ShukerReplyDelete
I was surprised that the Guardian article in the link suggested that H.S. might have fed on people. Despite its great size, I suspect that it was specialized to catch fish by side-swiping,and swallowing them whole.ReplyDelete
Large false gharials aren´t just fish-eaters. They will also feed on birds and mammals. There is also at least one confirmed case on record in which a large one has eaten a human. I have seen the second largest Tomistoma skull several years ago. They are without a doubt massive enough to deal even with human-sized prey and livestock.Delete
Brings to mind another less-confirmed crocodilian that was allegedly hunted to extinction, the Buru.ReplyDelete
I think it highly unlikely that, if real, the buru was a crocodilian. Such creatures do not bury themselves at the bottom of dried-out lakes like the buru allegedly did. I still favour a giant lungfish as the closest overall fit, morphologically and behaviourally, for the buru.Delete
Lungfish...hmmm, hadn't considered that possibility, but it does make sense! Thanks Karl.Delete
A recent article by Nick Redfern at Mysterious Universe quotes an account by Marco Polo referring to "dragons" hunted in Yunnan province by the locals. Any connection?ReplyDelete
Possibly. Historically, crocodiles have often been confused with or referred to loosely as dragons, but obviously without a physical specimen of one of these dragons to examine, or at the very least an accurate detailed artistic representation, it is impossible to know for sure just what such dragons were, if indeed they even existed. Marco Polo made mention of all sorts of bizarre beasts that sound much more legendary than real.Delete
Having been trying to find specific names for things in historic contexts, I have found the term dragon is largely taxinomally useless, especially when there is a local name for something an unfamiliar foreign observer would refer to flippantly as a dragon.Delete