Sarcosuchus (Sar-koh-sook-uss) lived during the Early Cretaceous Period, around 112 million years ago, in what is now South America and Africa. It was a huge relative of crocodiles, and one of the largest croc-like animals to ever live.
Genera and Species
Classification: Reptilia. Pholidosauridae.
Genus: Sarcosuchus (“Flesh Crocodile”)
Species: S. imperator, S. hartti
Sarcosuchus is thought to have grown nearly 40 feet long, nearly twice the length of the largest living crocodile species, the saltwater crocodile.
The body of Sarcosuchus resembled that of modern day crocodiles, with large bony scutes covering its body like armor. Its long slender snout had a large round prominent structure on the end of it known as a bulla.
Its jaws were full of teeth, and its upper jaw was substantially longer than its lower jaw, which left Sarcosuchus with a prominent overbite.
LENGTH: 11 to 12 meters (36 to 39 feet)
WEIGHT: Estimated 8 tonnes (8.8 short tons)
While Sarcosuchus’s snout was slender compared to many other crocodylomorphs (crocodiles and relatives), it was broader than those who ate solely fish, which leads scientists to believe that Sarcosuchus preferred larger, more varied prey. It may have eaten large dinosaurs as they came to take a drink.
History of Discovery
In the 1940s and 1950s, various Sarcosuchus fossils were discovered in the Sahara Desert by an expedition of paleontologists led by Albert-Felix de Lapparent. These included skull pieces, teeth, scutes, and parts of the backbone.
In 1964 a nearly complete skull was found in northern Niger, and in 1977 teeth that had originally been discovered in 1867 were assigned to Sarcosuchus. These teeth were found in Brazil, meaning Sarcosuchus was likely fairly widespread in its range.
In the late 1990s, more fossils were found in Morocco during an expedition led by paleontologist Paul Sereno. These specimens shed the most light on what Sarcosuchus looked like, as they included a skeleton that was nearly 50% complete.
Sarcosuchus likely lived in a tropical, humid environment with large bodies of fresh water. It shared its habitat with dinosaurs including Ouranosaurus and Lurdusaurus, two iguanodonts, as well as the theropod Suchomimus and the sauropod Nigersaurus.