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Giant Crocodile Found with a Baby Dinosaur Still in Its Stomach

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Scientists utilised nuclear technology to scan the fossilised stomach contents of a 93-million-year-old crocodile to uncover that it had eaten a newborn dinosaur just before its death.

In 2010, the crocodile's remains were discovered inside a big boulder in Central Queensland, Australia.

The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum and the University of New England have now employed advanced nuclear and synchrotron imaging to prove that the hungry croc ate a young dinosaur before it died, and their findings have been published in the journal Godwana Research.

The crocodile was dubbed Confractosuchus sauroktonos, which translates as "the broken crocodile dinosaur killer," and was about 2-2.5m long. The 'broken' component of its name refers to its discovery in a massive, smashed boulder.

Dr. Joseph Bevitt, Senior Instrument Scientist and co-author of the report, stated, "The fossilised remains were discovered in a big boulder." Concretions are formed when organic matter settles to the bottom of a river, such as a crocodile.

"Because the environment is rich in minerals, the mud surrounding the creature can solidify and harden within days due to the presence of bacteria."

Early neutron imaging scans of one rock fragment from the boulder detected bones of the small chicken-sized juvenile dinosaur in the gut, an ornithopod that has not yet been formally identified by species, according to a press release from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

The dinosaur bones were discovered by chance after the material was 'exposed to the penetrative power of neutrons.'

"In the initial scan in 2015, I discovered a buried bone in there that looked like a chicken bone with a hook on it and immediately assumed it was a dinosaur," Bevitt explained.

"Human eyes had never seen it before because it was and still is completely encased in rock."

The discovery prompted additional high-resolution scans using Dingo – Australia's only neutron imaging device capable of producing 2D and 3D images of a solid object and revealing hidden structures within it – as well as the synchrotron X-ray Imaging and Medical Beamline.

"3D digital scans from the Imaging and Medical Beamline guided the physical preparation of the crocodile, which was impossible without knowing exactly where the bones were," Bevitt explained, before adding, "The results were outstanding in providing an entire picture of the crocodile and its last meal, a partially digested juvenile dinosaur."

The study discovered 'infilled worm tunnels, plant roots, and geological features that extended between rock shards' to indicate the dinosaur was definitely in the crocodile's gut.

"The chemistry of rock provides the evidence," Bevitt explained.

The team believes the crocodile was captured in a megaflood event,' buried, and killed unexpectedly.