A great Cretan crocodile hunted relatives dinosaurs, slicing them using powerful jaws lined with “banana-sized” teeth, researchers say.
Known as Deinosuchus, meaning “terrible crocodile” in Greek, this lineage of crescent reptiles certainly lived up to its name. They were among the largest predators in their flowing habitats of North America, where they lived between 75 million and 82 million years ago. And with bodies at least 33 meters (10 meters) long, they can subdue almost any animal that wanders within reach – including dinosaurs.
Paleontologists had previously identified three types of terror crocs. But some experts argued that the fossil record identifying the species was incomplete, and that all three species may simply be those that went beyond the continent. Scientists recently re-evaluated the fossils of so-called terror crocodiles, combining existing species and describing a new one, Deinosuchus schwimmeri, in a new study.
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In addition to having banana-sized teeth, newly described D. schwimmeri was “a bizarre, monstrous predator,”; said lead author Adam Cossette, an assistant professor at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine Technology at Arkansas State University. Cossette and colleagues describe the new species by sampling fossils from across North America, and estimating new croc terror fossils from West Texas, according to the study.
“Until now, the complete animal was unknown,” Kota said in a statement. The name of the species honors paleontologist David Schwimmer, a professor at Columbus State University in Georgia (not to be confused with actor David Schwimmer, who played a paleontologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on the TV show “Friends”) ).
Deinosuchus are crocodiles – the group that includes the modern alligators, crocodiles and gharials – and despite the name “terrible crocodile”, the Deinosuchus descent was more closely related to alligators, the researchers determined. They also discovered that species D. rugosus is likely to be misidentified. D. rugosus fossils (of which there are very few) are likely to come from two other species – D. riograndensis or D. schwimmeri – both were described later, but boasted more complete sets of fossils.
Terror crocus type status D. hatcheri, also based on scarce and fragmented fossil evidence, is also controversial, the authors reported.
D. schwimmeri inhabited the east coast of North America and the coastal Atlantic while D. riograndensis and D. hatcheri lived in the West; at the time, the South Seaway Interior geographically divided eastern and western species, the study authors write.
But, regardless of the species, “Deinosuchus “It was a giant that must have terrorized the dinosaurs that came to the water’s edge to drink,” Kossette said.
until Deinosuchus shared many features with her crocodile relatives, some features set her apart. Their broad, elongated heads ended up in a bulbous gorge – a unique shape among this group of reptiles, according to the study. At the bottom of the snoring are two large drains, which are also unique to it Deinosuchus.
Scientists have yet to discover the function of the openings and the shape of the snout, although they may be related to thermoregulation, and may have helped terror crocs stay fresh, according to the study.
“It was a strange animal,” said study co-author Christopher Brochu, a paleontologist and professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Iowa. The findings were published online August 10 at Journal of Paleontology Vertebrate.
Originally published in Live Science.