Science Report: Super-crocodile crawls out of the African Cretaceous

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Just in time for Halloween, here's a creature from the past that could give you nightmares: a crocodile-like reptile, as long as a school bus and weighing about as much as a small whale, that may have snacked on small dinosaurs.

In a 25 October report published online by Science at the Science Express website (http://www.sciencexpress.org), Paul C. Sereno of the University of Chicago and colleagues describe newly discovered fossil skulls and partial skeletons of this 110 million-year old giant from Niger, Sarcosuchus imperator.

Specimens of Sarcosuchus (pronounced SARK-oh-SOOK-us) were first discovered by French geologists in the Tnr Desert in Niger in 1964. Researchers have found isolated bones of this animal strewn about the site since then, but its anatomy, lifestyle, growth, and kinship with other crocodilians have remained largely enigmatic until now.

"This new material gives us a good look at hyper giant crocodiles--there's been rampant speculation about what they looked like and where they fit in the croc family tree, but no one had enough of the skull and skeleton to really nail any the of true croc giants down until now," says Sereno.

The Science researchers confirmed that "massive" is one of the distinguishing characteristics of Sarcosuchus, using skull length to estimate its maximum body length at approximately 11-12 meters, 37-40 feet and eight metric tons.

The giant croc

Contact: Lisa Onaga
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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