Were ancient crocodiles actually vegetarians? A new study indicates at least some were. But crocodiles aren’t the only carnivorous animals that used to be herbivores. Let’s look at how these fascinating discoveries match up with God’s Word!
According to a recent article, scientists studied 146 tooth fossils from 16 members of the crocodile and alligator family (crocodyliforms) that they believe to be 200 million years old. (Answers in Genesis disagrees with this proposed age.) They found that around 3 to 6 of these ancient crocodiles had teeth specially shaped to eat plants. It turns out that these crocodyliforms were vegetarians!
But aren’t modern-day crocodiles all carnivores? Yes, it’s no secret that crocodiles are one of the most ferocious and dangerous predators today. For example, the International Shark Attack File estimates there are only about 80 unprovoked shark attacks on humans each year, around four of which are fatal. Meanwhile, crocodiles regularly attack around 1,000 people each year—and about one-third to one-half of those result in death.
So what happened? How did vegetarian or omnivorous crocodiles become completely carnivorous? The answer is in God’s Word.
A Biblical Perspective of Modern-Day Carnivores
The most interesting thing about this study is that its findings line up with the Bible’s account of Creation and how animals used to feed. Before the fall, all living creatures—animals and humans alike—ate plants, not meat.
“And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food” (Genesis 1:30, ESV).
But that changed after Adam and Eve sinned. At some point after the fall, animals began eating other animals. Rock layers laid down by the Flood show many animals were carnivorous by the time God destroyed the earth with water.
After Adam and Eve’s sin, they had to sacrifice animals to the Lord, but it wasn’t until after the Flood that God gave humans permission to eat animals.
“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Genesis 9:3-4, ESV).
Animals That Are Surprisingly Vegetarian
People often deny the biblical account that animals were originally herbivores. “How could animals like spiders, birds of prey, and cats have possibly survived as vegetarians?” they ask.
But studies over the years are showing that more and more modern-day carnivores could have survived on a plant-based diet at one point. In his article, apologist Bodie Hodge lists several animals that are surprisingly vegetarian.
The small jumping spider Bagheera kiplingi is primarily vegetarian. This arachnid lives in Central America and feeds on acacia trees instead of the ants on the trees. Clearly, spiders can survive on vegetarian diets.
You might think lions couldn’t survive without eating meat, but you’d be wrong. Two lions have been known to live as vegetarians. One was called “Little Tyke.” This large female cat refused to eat meat throughout her entire life. Another, called Lea, didn’t eat meat until she was 7 years old—and even then, it took a month to get her used to it.
Have you ever seen vultures scavenging a dead animal on the side of the road? It’s not a pretty sight. But the Gypohierax angolensis is the exception among vultures because it mainly eats palm fruits. Sometimes it eats fish, carrion, and invertebrates, but for the most part, its diet is plant-based.
In the same subfamily as the fearsome and deadly piranhas, pacu are primarily vegetarian fish. The two are likely of the same created kind, and they even look incredibly similar! Pacu may sometimes eat small fish or insects, but they typically prefer plants, proving that such fish don’t have to be carnivores.
What do these unexpectedly vegetarian animals show? We can trust God’s Word and its account of Creation, history, and truth. The Bible says God originally made all animals as vegetarians at Creation—and modern-day science is beginning to see the evidence of this!
The Wild Brothers see a lot of God’s amazing creatures living on the bayou in Florida. In this episode, Hudson spots an alligator—the bayou beast—and he heads out on the water to see how close he can get. (Don’t try this on your own!)