The New Jersey State Museum opened its most recent exhibition on March 2, entitled Jersey Crocs Rule! Found in the East Gallery of the first floor, this newest installation allows children and parents to delve deep into the history of the existence and evolution of crocodiles in New Jersey. “Our exhibit, Jersey Crocs Rule!, tells the story of crocodilian evolution in New Jersey while exhibiting some of the more fantastic specimens from our collections,” said Dr. Dana Ehret, the museum’s Assistant Curator of Natural History. “We strive to share the wonderful paleontological resources of New Jersey to its residents, and share the evolution of crocs with them!”
While many believe that these species only survive in tropical and subtropical climates, Jersey Crocs Rule! puts this idea to rest as it provides evidence of a wide array of crocodile species found in the Garden State’s fossil record. In fact, the ancestors of modern crocodiles evolved over 200 million years ago within the state. Here, the species diverged and adapted to meet environmental pressures.
Along with fossils and rocks, the exhibition features taxidermy mounts and skeletons of crocodiles of prehistoric and living species. Remarkably, not only is there a nearly complete skeleton of crocodylian Hyposaurus rogersii (which, according to the museum’s press release, originated in what is now Gloucester County, NJ about 65 million years ago), also on display is a six foot long skull reconstruction of one of the largest known crocodiles in the world: the New Jersey native Deinosuchus.
For those who enjoy being more involved, the exhibition provides multiple interactive activities that focus on subject matters such as the prehistoric environments of ancient crocodiles and the unique ways in which crocodiles move their tails.
The exhibition additionally raises awareness to the new threats that crocodiles face today, such as habitat loss, pollution, illegal hunting, and climate change. According to the exhibit, of 24 crocodilian species, seven are critically endangered and four are at risk. All is not lost, however, as conservation and environmental protections have brought species back from their endangered status.