The prehistoric relatives of today’s crocodiles may have not had quite the bite we assume. Researchers have studied 146 tooth fossils across sixteen species of now extinct crocodyliforms and compared them to the teeth of not just alligators and crocodiles, but also the gharial and caiman.
Using computer modeling, the study broke down the function of each tooth by complexity and determined that some crocodyliforms did have the carnivorous diet we’d expect but others were actually herbivorous. This strikes a blow to the commonly held belief that crocodiles would have been top of the food chain, as they are now, and instead shows that some of the prehistoric crocs might have been lower or even bottom of the food chain.
Today’s crocodiles are carnivorous because that is the evolutionary branch that survived most heartily, but one scientist does note that alligators held in captivity have been known to pick fruit off of trees.