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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

King Kong vs. Godzilla

All economics all the time gets boring you say? Something else then:

SciAm Observations: King Kong vs. Godzilla: First came a new report on Gigantopithecus, a huge prehistoric ape that inevitably invites comparisons to King Kong because of the imminent release of the film remake by the same name. And now comes the discovery of Dakosaurus andiniensis, a monstrous species of 135-million-year-old aquatic crocodile that has been nicknamed "Godzilla." The synchronicity of these reports can mean only one thing:

People of Tokyo, run for your lives.

Gigantopithecus, the largest known primate that ever lived, has always been the beast that cryptozoologists have claimed as the prototype for Bigfoot, the Yeti and similar humanoid giants of folklore. The recent work by Jack Rink of McMaster University doesn't lend any additional credibility to the existence of those creatures, but it does seem to confirm that humans and Gigantopithecus coexisted in Southeast Asia as recently as 100,000 years ago.

Dakosaurus was truly a sea monster, measuring 13 feet long. Of course, some modern crocodiles exceed that length, and this size pales beside the 40-foot crocodilian called Sarcosuchus imperator. What makes Dakosaurus remarkable is that, unlike its known cousins, it has a short, blunt muzzle full of serrated teeth rather than a thin snout of sharp but unspecialized teeth. Think of it, loosely speaking, as a Tyrannosaurus head stuck onto a crocodile body. As this article from National Geographic notes:

The animal's unusual features suggest that it had completely different feeding habits from its relatives. While other marine crocs fed on small fish, Dakosaurus hunted for marine reptiles and other large sea creatures, using its jagged teeth to bite and cut its prey.

"The most perplexing thing about the animal is that its head shape does not appear to be well suited to a fast swimming crocodilian, because rather than being streamlined, it is somewhat high and flattened from side to side," said Clark, who was not involved with the research.

"Presumably it moved its head mainly up and down rather than sweeping it from side to side, like fish-eating crocodilians."

So, a thoroughly nasty beast.

In the laughable Japanese monster flick King Kong vs. Godzilla, when those two rubber-suit gargantuas clashed, the ape was the hero who saved the day from the villainous reptile. (It figures; a mammal directed that picture.) But if, through the miracle of time travel and reality TV, Dakosaurus were ever to fight Gigantopithecus--vicious sea carnivore against oversized herbivore--then in my opinion, it's no contest. Godzilla takes it in the second round.

    Posted by on Tuesday, November 15, 2005 at 02:06 AM in Science | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (3)

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