Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

A toothy predator punctured this shell of an Aldabra tortoise, an animal that can reach 250 kilograms.

A toothy predator punctured this shell of an Aldabra tortoise, an animal that can reach 250 kilograms. Credit: T. M. Scheyer et al./Royal Soc. Open Sci./CC BY 4.0


Extinct crocodile tackled challenging prey

Even immense tortoises weren’t safe from this island predator.

An ancient crocodile that measured more than 3.5 metres from snout to tail was large enough to tackle super-sized prey.

The Aldabra tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea) lives on an island of the same name in the Indian Ocean and can measure up to 1.2 metres in length. Adult animals have no natural predators, because no animal can open its mouth wide enough to crack their shell. Near a pond on the island, members of a team headed by Torsten Scheyer and Dennis Hansen of the University of Zurich in Switzerland found fossilized remains of these tortoises that dated to between 90,000 and 125,000 years ago. The fossils bore puncture marks and scratches characteristic of a predator attack.

At the same site, the researchers found fossils from the same period of a 3-to-4-metre-long crocodile that is now extinct. These huge predators may have attacked giant tortoises that came to drink from the pond, the authors say.

More Research Highlights...

Ember and thick smoke from bushfires reach Braemar Bay in New South Wales

Vast bush fires that swept across Australia at the end of 2019 and the start of 2020 filled the skies with enough smoke to warm a portion of the atmosphere. Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty

Atmospheric science

Smoke from Australian fires turned up the heat in the southern sky

The catastrophic wildfires of late 2019 and early 2020 triggered a lingering temperature rise in a section of Earth’s lower atmosphere.
Visible and infrared images of the device in fully discharged and charged states

A display screen in its uncharged (top left) and charged (top right) state in visible light. The screen reflects one range of infrared wavelengths when uncharged (bottom left) and another range when charged (bottom right). Credit: M. S. Ergoktas et al./Nature Photon.

Optics and photonics

One screen, three images — some invisible in ordinary light

A graphene-based device can display several images simultaneously using a range of wavelengths.
Woman harvesting teff, Ethiopia

A farmer in Ethiopia harvests teff, a cereal. Small farms tend to have more-diverse landscapes than do sprawling industrial operations. Credit: Andia/Universal Images Group/Getty

Environmental sciences

Small farms outdo big ones on biodiversity — and crop yields

Large-scale farms account for most of the global food supply, but smallholdings protect species and are just as profitable.
Diagram of the nuclear composition and electron configuration of an atom of xenon-132.

A xenon atom’s electrons (grey circles; illustration) have been observed and even manipulated as they shifted their position. Credit: Carlos Clarivan/Science Photo Library

Atomic and molecular physics

An atom shuffles its electrons at ultrahigh speed — and is caught in the act

Scientists capture the movement of electrons in a xenon atom, a phenomenon that lasts for a fraction of one-billionth of a second.
A canal running alongside banks of earth.

An irrigation canal in the dry and intensively farmed San Joaquin Valley of California. Solar panels over such canals are more efficient than those on dry land. Credit: Citizens of the Planet/Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty

Renewable energy

Solar panels that throw shade on canals are an environmental win–win

Placing solar arrays over canals would prevent water loss and improve panels’ energy harvest.
Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing


Quick links