Home > Earth science, paleontology > Fossils of largest-ever marine crocodile found in Africa

Fossils of largest-ever marine crocodile found in Africa

Scientists have found evidence that a ocean-dwelling crocodile about 10 meters long once roamed the area we now know as north Africa.

The beast, which also likely weighed at least three tons, lived about 120-130 million years ago.

Dubbed Machimosaurus rex, the crocodile is the largest known of its kind. A marine reptile, it thrived at a time in Earth’s geologic history when the land now known as north Africa was submerged under an ocean.

machimosaurus-rex-reconstruction

Machimosaurus rex was a marine reptile, about 12 meters long, that swam in Cretaceous oceans. Illustration courtesy University of Alberta, illustration (c) Davide Bonadonna. All rights reserved.

Researchers discovered the species in 2014 when a skull measuring almost two meters in length was unearthed in Tunisia. The specimen has teeth that are are shaped like bullets, which the creature may have used to crush the carapaces of marine turtles.

The length of the animal is an estimate, based on the dimensions of similar organisms within the animal’s genus that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

“We have been digging in that area since 2011 because the rocks there are nothing like other places,” Federico Fanti, a paleontologist at the University of Bologna in Italy and lead author of the paper documenting the find, said in a statement. “Globally, good fossils are rare from this age—130 million years ago.”

Fanti and his team later found more of the specimen, including vertebrae, but were not able to remove those parts of the fossil because of ongoing unrest in the country.

The species is part of a larger genus that was first discovered in the nineteenth century. Among M. rex‘s close relatives are crocodilians that roamed Jurassic and Cretaceous period seas that then covered the part of Earth now known as Europe.

M. rex was the largest of the teleosaurids (marine crocodiles) in its genus.

While large, the croc is not the largest known from the planet’s long history of life. At least several species of freshwater crocodile that lived during the time of the dinosaurs, Sarcosuchus imperator and those in the genus Deinosuchus, were more imposing than M. rex.

S. imperator was about two meters longer than M. rex, while some Deinosuchus species may have been only slightly longer than M. rex.

The paper documenting the discovery of M. rex was published online in the Jan. 10, 2016 edition of Cretaceous Research.

 

 

 

 

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