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Ancient ‘crocodiles’ had banana-sized teeth



This illustration shows Deinosuchus from bones to flesh.

Tyler Stone

Let’s turn the clock back millions of years to a time when crocodiles as long as buses lived in America. A new study of Deinosuchus fossils has revealed more details of what these mind predators looked like and how they behaved.

Deinosuchus, which can be translated as “terrible crocodile”

; or “crocodile terror”, ate the dinosaurs, notes a paper published in late July in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Massive animals lived between 75 million and 82 million years ago and would be at the top of the food chain.

“Until now, the whole animal was unknown. New examples reveal a bizarre, monstrous, toothed predator the size of bananas,” lead author Adam Cossette said in a publication by Taylor & Francis magazine publisher on Monday. Cosette is a vertebrate paleontologist at the New York Institute of Technology.

These fossil specimens have given researchers a glimpse into the mouth of Deinosuchus.

Adam Cosette

Cosette and paleontologist Christopher Brochu at the University of Iowa study male fossils and evidence of the bite to build a more complete picture of Deinosuchus, which was more closely related to alligators than crocodiles.

The paper helps to clarify three different known species of Deinosuchus: Deinosuchus hatcheri and Deinosuchus riograndensis (ranging from Montana to northern Mexico) and Deinosuchus schwimmeri (from New Jersey to Mississippi).

While Deinosuchus’ reputation as a formidable predator is now sealed, the animal remains mysterious in many respects. Researchers noted two large holes in his tracks that had a still unknown function.

“It was a strange animal,” Brochu said. “This shows that crocodiles are not ‘living fossils’ that have not changed since the age of the dinosaurs. They have evolved just as dynamically as any other group.”

Deinosuchus’ new understanding fits in well with some other recent scientific knowledge about missing relatives and relatives. The researchers found one ancient crocodiles walking on two legs and traced extinction of massive Australian crocs against fires and habitat loss.

If you think today’s alligators are intimidating, you can at least take comfort in knowing Deinosuchus is not feeding the waterways of the modern world. “Deinosuchus was a giant that must have terrorized the dinosaurs that came to the water’s edge to drink,” Cosette said. But that’s all in the past.


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