Photo illustration of the Whatcheeria.

Scientists are painting a clearer picture of an ancient crocodile-like predator that roamed Iowa 328 million years ago, millions of years before the dinosaurs. 

The Whatcheeria was an archaic tetrapod (a four-legged animal) that inhabited the swampy waters of what is today Iowa during the Carboniferous Period, when the area was subtropical and looked more like South Florida than the Midwest we know today, said Ben Otoo, a researcher at the University of Chicago’s Coates Lab, which studies the evolution of early vertebrates. 

Otoo and his colleagues at the University of Chicago published a paper Monday in the peer-reviewed Communications Biology Journal that uncovered the aquatic animal’s rapid rate of growth early in its life, giving it a quick edge over other species in its aquatic environment. 

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