Crocodiles are rightly considered as stealthy, green killing machines. And the ancient reptiles are now that little more terrifying after dramatic video shows the swamp beast barrelling along at surprising speeds.
Veterinary scientists have discovered how a significant number of species are capable of galloping when they hitting their top speeds of 11mph.
It has previously assumed only a couple of croc species could reach this horse-like gait.
Now shocking footage has revealed how this ability extends to eight different species.
Crocodiles’ relatives including alligators and caimans, by contrast, can manage a mere trot.
Because the distinctive gait is shared across many species, the Royal Veterinary College researchers believe galloping may have first emerged in crocodiles’ ancient land-dwelling ancestors, called crocodylomorphs.
These are believed to be cat-sized creatures with long legs.
Professor John Hutchinson, a Royal Veterinary College specialising in evolutionary biomechanics, who led the study, admitted being surprised at finding almost all the species studied had a top speed, despite the animals’ range gaits and sizes.
He said: “We suspect that bounding and galloping give small crocodiles better acceleration and manoeuvrability, especially useful for escaping from danger.
Asteroid danger: 100% certainty of impact warns space expert [INTERVIEW]Hubble snaps galaxy ‘like a portal to another dimension’ [PICTURES]What is the mysterious dark vortex NASA found on Neptune? [ANALYSIS]
“This species is notorious for being really aggressive.”
Other, smaller species were more likely to gallop into the water to escape rather than to chase prey.
The Royal Veterinary College expert believes galloping could have emerged multiple times in evolution in different species, as an energetically efficient way to travel.
The scientists carried out the study at St Augustine alligator farm and zoological park in Florida, where they recorded videos of 42 individuals from 15 species.
The creatures were placed at the end of a runway and coaxed to run to the other end.
Professor Hutchinson said: “Every animal it took a different motivation.
“Some of them wouldn’t go at all. The caimans and alligators tended to just sit there and hiss and fight.”