LIFESTYLE

Unprecedented: 7 croc species co-existed in patch of Amazon 13M years ago

(ARGENTINA OUT) Esteros del Ibera. Corrientes. Argentina. The Ibera Wetlands (in Spanish, Esteros del Ibera, from Guarani ý bera "bright water") are the second-largest wetlands in South America. They are located in the center and center-north of the province of Corrientes, Argentina. The Esteros are a mix of swamps, bogs, stagnant lakes, lagoons, natural slough and courses of water of pluvial origin, with a total area of between 15,000 and 20,000 km². Image: Yacare Caiman.  (Photo by Mariana Silvia Eliano/Cover/Getty Images)

(ARGENTINA OUT) Esteros del Ibera. Corrientes. Argentina. The Ibera Wetlands (in Spanish, Esteros del Ibera, from Guarani ý bera "bright water") are the second-largest wetlands in South America. They are located in the center and center-north of the province of Corrientes, Argentina. The Esteros are a mix of swamps, bogs, stagnant lakes, lagoons, natural slough and courses of water of pluvial origin, with a total area of between 15,000 and 20,000 km². Image: Yacare Caiman. (Photo by Mariana Silvia Eliano/Cover/Getty Images)  (Getty)

The Amazon region in Northeastern Peru was home to the largest known number of crocodile species, seven, to have ever co-existed in one place at any time in history.

The unprecedented rarity happened 13 million years ago, according to the authors of a study published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Among the seven were the American alligator, the Central and South American caimans and others.

“We uncovered this special moment in time when the ancient mega-wetland ecosystem reached its peak in size and complexity, just before its demise and the start of the modern Amazon River system,” lead author Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi said in a press release.

“At this moment,” he continued, “most known caiman groups co-existed: ancient lineages bearing unusual blunt snouts and globular teeth along with those more generalized feeders representing the beginning of what was to come.”

The discovery is also shattering a few stereotypes. One of the species to inhabit the swampy patch was the Gnatusuchus, which researchers believe shoveled through lake bottoms in search of clam-like mollusks.

"I didn't really think of crocs as being clam-eaters before," paleontologist David Schwimmer of Georgia's Columbus State University, told USA Today. "It's not exactly ferocious, hunting down the giant killer clam."

Another croc mentioned in the study is the Paleosuchus, which is also highlighted by Discovery News. “[It] had a longer and higher snout shape that was suitable for catching a variety of prey, like fish and other active swimming vertebrates,” the publication describes.

Today, only three species of caimans are known to co-exist in the same area, and they rarely share the same habitats.

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