We also examined the difference between (1) crocodile carcasses buried in sand, versus (2) carcasses left in water to rot and buried once they sank, versus (3) carcasses left in water to rot and left unburied.
We were interested in how this applies to the fossil record: when we examine fossil crocodiles, can we tell where they died, and how long they were left to rot, and whether they were buried quickly or not?
The carcasses buried part-way through the experiment, as well as those not buried at all, look more similar to one another. Chunks of the skeleton stayed together, but other bits separated (disarticulated).
What does this mean for fossil crocodiles? We might think that a really well preserved fossil might have resulted from a carcass being quickly buried, which is a fair assumption. But we might also think that a carcass left to decay undisturbed in fresh water could also be really well preserved and look the same as a buried carcass. The results from this experiment show that this is not the case for modern crocs, and therefore may not be the case for ancient crocs!