The discovery of a prehistoric crocodile fossil in Peru from around 7 million years ago has given palaeontologists clues as to how modern crocodiles, now both saltwater and freshwater creatures, first came to land from the sea.

According to a Peruvian research team that analysed jaw and skull remains of the species, the animal likely crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the coast of South America, eventually populating what is now southern Peru.

Researchers collected partial skeletons from the species in recent years, and after finding a jawbone in Peru's Sacaco desert in 2020, gained an understanding of how these animals evolved after living in saltwater.

The animal has been dubbed Sacacosuchus cordovai.

The crocodilian ancestor would have spanned four metres.

Sacaco is a site where skeletons of prehistoric animals have been found before. Experts say that millions of years ago the desert was a deep seabed inhabited by whales, giant sharks and crocodiles, among other marine species.

Southern Peru is a rich source of prehistoric remains. In March, a team of palaeontologists led by Salas presented the skull fossil of a 12-meter-long "sea monster," a predator that lived 36 million years ago in an ancient ocean along the central coast of Peru.

Courtesy Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia - Paleontology and Evolution of Vertebrates Department