An extraordinary “horror crocodile” once roamed the earth and came out in front of the dinosaurs, according to a new study reviewing fossils from the giant Cretan crocodile, Deinosuchus.
The research, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, reiterates it Deinosuchus were among the largest crocodiles ever in existence, reaching up to 33 meters in length. New in this study is a look at the anatomy of Deinosuchus, which was achieved by putting together various hitherto unknown specimens, giving a more complete picture of the animal.
Adam Cossette, a vertebrate paleobiologist at New York College of Osteopathic Medicine Technology at Arkansas State University, led the study that corrected some misconceptions about Deinosuchus.
“Until now, the complete animal was unknown,” Kossette said. “These new specimens we examined reveal a strange, monstrous, toothed banana-sized predator.”
Past studies on crane debris and bite marks on dinosaur bones have led paleontologists to believe massively Deinosuchus were an opportunistic predator, according to the press release. Fossil examples illustrate this Deinosuchus indeed had the size of the head and the strength of the jaw to have its prey, including large dinosaurs.
“Deinosuchus “It was a giant that must have terrorized the dinosaurs that came to the water’s edge to drink,” Kossette said.
University of Iowa vertebrate paleontologist Christopher Brochu, co-author of the study, said another important realization from the paper is that there have been several types of Deinosuchus that roamed North America between 75 and 82 million years ago.
The study notes Deinosuchus hatcheri and Deinosuchus riograndensis lived in the west, from what is now Montana in northern Mexico. Deinosuchus schwimmeri lived east of New Jersey in Mississippi.
“Some of them split from a sea that at one point cut North America in half of what is now the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean,” Brochu said. “And that may have pushed what we call specification. It could have been a form of ancestral dinosaur in North America, and then the sea cut that population in half and on one side it evolved in one direction, the other side in another direction. “
Despite the nickname “crocodiles of terror,” Brochu said Deinosuchus were closer to alligators than to crocodiles, but “did not look like one of them.”
Deinosuchus had a long, broad shell, with the front appearing swollen from any other living or extinct crocodile. At the top of the snoring is a large pair of holes. Researchers are still unsure of their function.
Both Brouchu and Cossette claim that this paper refutes the idea that crocodiles are living fossils, or in other words, animals that have never evolved.
“‘It’s this concept out there that crocodiles are immutable forms,’ ‘Brochu said. “That they appear in the distant past and have not changed since the days of the dinosaurs. This is simply not true.”
If you look at modern crocodile species, Cosette explained, there is only a small part and they all look and act very similar. But if you look at the fossil record there are variety of size, shape, diet and lifestyle.
“Most people think crocodiles haven’t changed in 75 million years,” Cossette said. “This study shows that the ancestors of today’s American alligator looked nothing like them.”
“Crocodiles are actually these incredibly dynamic creatures that have proven extraordinary evolutionary histories, lived in places that modern crocodiles do not live, did things that modern crocodiles do not do, and have grown to a size that modern crocodiles never reach. That I think is the cute part [of the study], at least for me, “Cossette added.