Giant prehistoric croc likely dined on dinosaurs
For some time now, paleontologists have known of a giant prehistoric crocodylian known as Deinosuchus. Now, however, it has been confirmed that the reptile was capable of killing and eating dinosaurs – with some help from its "banana-sized" teeth.
In a study that was led by the University of Iowa's Dr. Adam Cossette, paleontologists reviewed existing Deinosuchus fossils, plus they analyzed new fossils that were recently discovered in Western Texas.
Among other things, it has been established that the creature grew to a length of at least 33 ft (10 m) – by contrast, the modern saltwater crocodile tops out at around 16 ft (5 m).
Analysis of Deinosuchus skulls, which included the enormous teeth, indicate that the animal had a bite strength which would allow it to kill even the largest of predatory dinosaurs – this finding is backed up by distinctive bite marks that were found on fossilized dinosaur bones. It is thought that Deinosuchus likely ambushed dinosaurs as they drank at the water's edge.
Additionally, it was determined that there were three separate species of the animal, all of which lived in what is now the US, 75 to 82 million years ago. These included Deinosuchus hatcheri and Deinosuchus riograndensis, which lived in the west from Montana to northern Mexico, and Deinosuchus schwimmeri, which lived in the east from New Jersey to Mississippi. The continent was divided down the middle at the time, by a shallow sea.
What's more, although Deinosuchus is latin for "terror crocodile," it is now thought that the creature was more closely related to today's alligators. Unlike them or modern crocodiles, though, it had a bulbous nose, the purpose of which is still a mystery.
"Until now, the complete animal was unknown," says Cossette. "These new specimens we've examined reveal a bizarre, monstrous predator."
A paper on the research was recently published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.