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Swanage Crocodile - Goniopholis kiplingi

The Swanage Crocodile - Goniopholis kiplingi

Jurassic Coast Parnership / DCM © 2014

The Swanage Snapper

As the Cretaceous Period dawned, around 140 million years ago, a warm freshwater lagoon covered large expanses of the now Purbeck area.  Suspended just beneath the lagoon’s calm surface, this substantial crocodile waited, motionless, to ambush unsuspecting prey.  Dinosaurs emerging from lush tropical foliage to drink, fish and turtles swimming into its range of attack, all fell victim.  Once engaged, this predator was swift and agile, its deadly jaws so powerful their bite was impossible to loosen.  It thrashed and rolled, gripping the intended meal until drowning or injury brought about the inevitable.

When this reptile directed its aggression toward another crocodile, it met its match.  The enemy’s sharp conical teeth sank into its flesh with such force they penetrated this creature’s skull, inflicting circular dents still visible on the fossil.

Natural History Museum founder Sir Richard Owen first described the genus Goniopholis in 1841.  The species name kiplingi is an homage to British author and nature enthusiast Rudyard Kipling (1865 to 1936), whose crocodile characters feature in stories such as The Jungle Book and The Elephant’s Child.