The primitive crocodiles, which lived 100m years ago, were good swimmers but were also capable of galloping
Fossil hunters have uncovered the remains of primitive crocodiles that "galloped" on land and patrolled the broad rivers that coursed through north Africa one hundred million years ago.
The skeletons of five creatures that walked with dinosaurs – and ate them – were unearthed in remote and rocky regions of what are now Morocco and Niger during a series of expeditions in the Sahara desert.
Three of the crocodiles are new species and include Kaprosuchus saharicus, a 6.5m-long beast with three sets of dagger-like tusks and an armoured snout for ramming its prey.
Another species, Laganosuchus thaumastos, was of similar length but had a pancake-flat head and is thought to have lurked in rivers with its jaws open, waiting for unsuspecting fish to pass. The most striking feature the beasts have in common was revealed by their bone structure, which suggests they were efficient swimmers but that when they clambered ashore they were also capable of galloping across the plains. Modern crocodiles crawl on their bellies because their legs sprawl out to the side.
"My African crocs appeared to have had both upright, agile legs for bounding overland and a versatile tail for paddling in water," writes Paul Sereno, a palaeontologist at the University of Chicago, in National Geographic Magazine. "These species open a window on a croc world completely foreign to what was living on northern continents."
The third new species, Araripesuchus rattoides, was only a metre long and probably used a pair of buckteeth in its lower jaw to dig for grubs.
The other two crocodiles unearthed during the expedition are known species. One had a wide, overhanging snout containing sensory areas that it used to sniff out prey in shallow waters. The other had a soft, dog-like nose and is thought to have been extremely agile.
Most of the fossils were found near the site where, in 2001, Sereno uncovered a 12m-long crocodile that lived 110m years ago. The beast, nicknamed SuperCroc, weighed around eight tonnes. The latest fossils are described in the journal ZooKeys.
"We were surprised to find so many species from the same time in the same place," said Hans Larsson, a palaeontologist at the University of Montreal, who took part in the expedition. "Each of the crocs apparently had different diets, different behaviours. It appears they had divided up the ecosystem, each species taking advantage of it in its own way."
The expedition was sponsored by National Geographic, which airs a documentary about the discoveries, When Crocs Ate Dinosaurs, at 5pm on Sunday 20 December on the Nat Geo Wild channel.
Jermain Defoe will get most of the plaudits for this huge victory, and rightly so, but the striker will no doubt be among the first to praise the service he received from Niko Kranjcar and Aaron Lennon
There is simply no containing Tottenham Hotspur on occasions such as these. To gawp at the sight of this team shredding Wigan was to acknowledge that, where Manchester City have the money and Liverpool the expectation, Spurs boast the firepower to keep them in the top four this term. At their slick best, this side is utterly irrepressible.
Jermain Defoe's seven-minute hat-trick, and a five-goal haul all plundered after half-time, took the breath away but this was a remarkable show of team attacking. Aaron Lennon, recovered from an ankle injury, and Niko Kranjcar offered contrasting if equally stunning play on either flank. Tom Huddlestone and Wilson Palacios steamrollered a Wigan midfield that is normally physically imposing. The Latics departed the pitch a collection of quivering wrecks. Real psychological damage may have been inflicted.
For Spurs this result will merely swell conviction. They are back level with Arsenal, pepped by a nine-goal swing in goal difference this weekend and the memories of the frustrations endured at the Emirates and at home to Stoke have been partially erased. Wigan will survey the wreckage of this scoreline and wonder at the reality that, at half-time, it was Harry Redknapp who had been livid at the way this contest had been veering. Tottenham may have scored early through Peter Crouch but momentum had petered out and slackness set in. "They needed reminding at the break," said Redknapp. Lessons were heeded to devastating effect.
The helter-skelter nature of Tottenham's dominance thereafter, and Wigan's capitulation, was hard to comprehend. The goals that flurried were all horribly sloppy in their concession, yet ruthlessly taken: Defoe's thumped volley from close range evaded Titus Bramble; Emmerson Boyce failed to intercept Palacios's through-ball for the England striker to add an immediate third; another Lennon sprint to the by-line away from Erik Edman and centre for Defoe to complete the hat-trick.
Lennon added the fifth, spitting a low shot beyond a visibly shaken Kirkland and into the far corner, with Defoe's fourth and fifth both pilfered from that same area. By then, the visitors' resistance had evaporated. Edman's abject attempt to cut out the pass for the seventh summed up the Swede's hapless return to his former club, though the agony did not end there.
The substitute David Bentley's free-kick cannoned in via the woodwork and the back of Kirkland's head before Kranjcar spun and revelled in the ninth when the ball crashed in off the crossbar.
The wingers' displays were, in their own ways, as much of a fillip as Defoe's bite. Lennon's zip and improved awareness make him a full-back's nightmare these days. Edman looked a broken man at the final whistle and will be haunted by this experience for some time. Fabio Capello should be buoyed. Kranjcar's abilities are more sedate, his influence more serene but his clever passing illuminated Spurs' midfield, with the hustle and bustle of Palacios and Huddlestone in the centre eclipsing the Latics' shambolic attempts to stifle.
Wigan have never endured a defeat this comprehensive in their 31-year existence as a league club. In truth, they were lucky to ship only nine. Their manager, Roberto Martínez, has only been in management for a little over two years and admirably attempted to write this off as freak, though his team have conceded 31 times in 13 games now this term. "The result is not normal but I'm not bothered about the final scoreline," he said. "I'm more bothered about how naive we were. We'll get stronger from this. You learn a lot from situations like this and the damage of this game will not be carried into the next match. We have enough characters in the dressing room and will react the right way."
Their revival must begin at home to Sunderland on Saturday while Tottenham attempt to maintain momentum at Aston Villa. Their only blemish here – other than a first-half dip in their power and poise – was Paul Scharner's consolation, though even that should not have stood. The Austrian cradled Hugo Rodallega's cross with his right arm as blatantly as Thierry Henry had collected with his hand in the Stade de France last week, before belting his shot in off the bar. Robbie Keane, warming up on the touchline, must have wished the Republic of Ireland had been as clinical as his club-mates to render that handball irrelevant.
Spurs, of course, must now prove they have the pedigree to reproduce form this impressive regularly. The collision at Villa Park will test whether this really was a unique occasion, though few clubs in this division boast the attacking options now at Redknapp's disposal.
Jermaine Jenas, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Robbie Keane began this drubbing on the bench. How Arsenal, shorn of Robin van Persie, must privately wish they had this amount of firepower in reserve.
A 10-ton fishing boat has been sunk by gigantic jellyfish off eastern Japan.
The trawler, the Diasan Shinsho-maru, capsized off Chiba`as its three-man crew was trying to haul in a net containing dozens of huge Nomura's jellyfish.
Each of the jellyfish can weigh up to 200 kg and waters around Japan have been inundated with the creatures this year. Experts believe weather and water conditions in the breeding grounds, off the coast of China, have been ideal for the jellyfish in recent months.
The crew of the fishing boat was thrown into the sea when the vessel capsized, but the three men were rescued by another trawler, according to the Mainichi newspaper. The local Coast Guard office reported that the weather was clear and the sea was calm at the time of the accident. One of the largest jellyfish in the world, the species can grow up to 2 meters in diameter. The last time Japan was invaded on a similar scale, in the summer of 2005, the jellyfish damaged nets, rendered fish inedible with their toxic stings and even caused injuries to fishermen.
Relatively little is known about Nomura's jellyfish, such as why some years see thousands of the creatures floating across the Sea of Japan on the Tsushima Current, but last year there were virtually no sightings. In 2007, there were 15,500 reports of damage to fishing equipment caused by the creatures.
Experts believe that one contributing factor to the jellyfish becoming more frequent visitors to Japanese waters may be a decline in the number of predators, which include sea turtles and certain species of fish.