July 2, 2019 | David F. Coppedge

Vegetarian Crocodiles?

Now you’ve heard everything. Evolutionists say several groups of extinct crocodiles “evolved” a vegan lifestyle.

It’s hard to know in these days of widespread scientific fraud and fake news whether to take headlines seriously. A story from the University of Utah doesn’t seem like a practical joke or spoof on The Onion. It proclaims, “Some crocs of the past were plant eaters,” adding the subtitle, “Comparisons of the teeth of extinct crocodyliforms to modern day animals allow new insights into diet.”

Based on careful study of fossilized teeth, scientists Keegan Melstom and Randall Irmis at the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah have found that multiple ancient groups of crocodyliforms—the group including living and extinct relatives of crocodiles and alligators—were not the carnivores we know today, as reported in the journal Current Biology on June 27, 2019. In fact, the evidence suggests that a veggie diet arose in the distant cousins of modern crocodylians at least three times.

“The most interesting thing we discovered was how frequently it seems extinct crocodyliforms ate plants,” said Melstrom, a doctoral student at the University of Utah. “Our study indicates that complexly shaped teeth, which we infer to indicate herbivory, appear in the extinct relatives of crocodiles at least three times and maybe as many as six.

It’s as if six absurdities are better than three, and three are better than one. Scientists, obviously, cannot observe an extinct crocodile eating, but they believe they can infer diet from the shapes of teeth. This is tricky, though, because some aggressive-looking animals with scary teeth are actually fruit eaters. Dolphins have very uniform teeth, but eat fish. In general, they say, carnivores tend to have simple teeth, and herbivores have more complex teeth. How do these evolve?

Plant-eating crocodyliforms appeared early in the evolutionary history of the group, the researchers conclude, shortly after the end-Triassic mass extinction, and persisted until the end-Cretaceous mass extinction that killed off all dinosaurs except birds. Their analysis suggests that herbivory arose independently a minimum of three times, and possibly six times, in Mesozoic crocodyliforms.

The complete defense of their conclusion is published in Current Biology by Melstrom and Irmis, “Repeated Evolution of Herbivorous Crocodyliforms during the Age of Dinosaurs.” They’re not alone in thinking that herbivory in crocodyliforms [crocodile-shaped things] evolved multiple times:

Previous workers have suggested that herbivory evolved separately in one or more lineages of Mesozoic crocodyliforms [4,5,8,13], but results presented here demonstrate that the occurrence of herbivory is more common than previously thought.

If this were a law of nature, or a successful evolutionary strategy, why would not all carnivores trend toward herbivory? T. rex could have saved a lot of energy eating some of the plants the sauropods were munching on. Do Melstrom and Irmis know how herbivory evolved?

The circumstances leading to the evolution of crocodyliforms with a plant-dominated diet remain unknown. Reconstructing the evolutionary pathways that lead to herbivory in crocodyliforms is beyond the goal of this contribution, but extant organisms offer insight into possible evolutionary transitions.

In other words, they leave the evolutionary mechanism up to others. They reason that since some living carnivorous birds and mammals sometimes eat plants, maybe evolution could have turned meat eaters into omnivores first, and then into plant eaters. The teeth must have blindly evolved where the diet went. Why this isn’t happening today is a mystery hidden in the shadows of the unobservable past.

Herbivorous crocodyliforms repeatedly lived in environments with herbivorous synapsids (including mammaliaforms) during the age of dinosaurs, suggesting that these organisms were not simply filling a “mammalian” ecological role (i.e., small-bodied, terrestrial herbivore) or excluding mammals from these ecosystems. Instead, these data suggest an ecological partitioning of plant resources between crocodyliforms and synapsids that does not occur in modern ecosystems. This highlights the uniqueness of these Mesozoic ecosystems, even as many modern components (taxa and interactions) were being assembled.

Were these ecosystems “being assembled” by design or chance? Did the animals form committees for “partitioning of plant resources”? It would seem in the age of dinosaurs there were plenty of plants and other animals to go around. What would have driven vicious-looking carnivorous crocodile-shaped things to go vegan?

Increased dental complexity in crocodyliforms, similar to that in multituberculates and extant lizards, is primarily driven by increases in cusp number and relative size of the distal portion of the dentition. However, with the exception of the iguanid-like multicusped, labiolingually compressed tooth morphology of Simosuchus, most herbivorous crocodyliforms developed complex, labiolingually expanded molariform teeth superficially resembling various synapsids (e.g., tritylodonts).

In short, they don’t know. Did the tooth changes come first? What drove animals used to eating meat to change? Did they need complex teeth to digest plants? How did the random mutations arrive in time to prevent starvation for a vegan-wannabee crocodile? Did the mutations get into the gametes so that the trait could be passed on? Whatever happened, it must have evolved. Evolution can do anything.

This is another example of divination by Darwinians. They can’t observe any of these animals eating, so they take fossil teeth and imagine with their mental crystal balls a crocodile eating plants.

From an evolutionary standpoint, the story is silly. Miraculous diet changes occur on cue, not once, but multiple times. Maybe vegetarian lions will be next, or vegetarian great white sharks.

Creationists might notice that animals don’t have to be meat-eaters. If a croc could go vegan, then anything could. Biblical creationists believe all animals were initially vegetarian. Score one for creation.

 

 

 

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