Galloping dinosaur-eating crocodiles once existed in the Sahara Desert
Believe it or not, but 100 million years ago, the region of what is now the scorching Sahara Desert was a lush swamp that was home not only to dinosaurs, but also to several types of prehistoric crocodilians. But that’s not all. These various ancient crocodiles came in all shapes and sizes. Some of them were galloping crocodiles capable of hunting prey on land, while others were so large and powerful that they were efficient dinosaur hunters.
Paleontologist Paul Sereno in action. (Oregon State University / CC BY-SA 2.0 )
During excavations beginning in the 1990s, famed paleontologist and dinosaur hunter Paul Sereno made a staggering discovery when he and his team discovered the fossilized skeleton of a giant prehistoric crocodile in the African Sahara known as the of Sarcosuchus imperator or SuperCroc. While fragments of this majestic monster had already been discovered in 1966, Sereno unearthed several partial skeletons dating back 110 million years in Niger. With a head as big as Sereno was tall, the team estimated that this SuperCroc was about 40 feet long (12.19 m).
Fossilized remains of Sarcosuchus imperator or SuperCroc. (patrick janicek / DC BY 2.0 )
Sereno kept returning to the Sahara and over the years discovered a whole world of lost crocodiles, many of which reminded him of other modern-day animals. There was the DogCroc ( Araripesuchus wegeneri ) who looked and lived like a dog, with tall legs and a sensitive nose. The three-foot-long (0.91 m) terrestrial DuckCroc ( Anatosuchus) was a crocodile physically reminiscent of a platypus. Meanwhile the RatCroc ( Araripesuchus rattoides ) was only 0.6 m long, terrestrial, and had front teeth designed to dig up insects.
Crocodile Crepe ( Laganosuchus) was an enigma, but in the end the team decided that its giant flat jaw was used much like a Venus flytrap, with the creature motionless and its mouth open in water for hours or days at a time. wait for its prey. The BoarFang ( Kaprosuchus) meanwhile looked like a boar. In a way reminiscent of the Australian Crocodile Freshie, the BoarCroc had the ability to move through water and gallop at high speed on land, giving it a distinct advantage over its prey before it clenched its huge teeth.
Skull of the prehistoric crocodile known as Kaprosuchus saharicus or BoarCroc. (Carol Abraczinskas / CC BY 3.0 )
Excited by their groundbreaking discoveries, Sereno set out to recreate this vanished world and bring these prehistoric crocodiles back to life using the power of advanced technology. Armed with the fossil fragments encountered in North Africa, his team used CT scans, special effects and forensic artists to create flesh and digital reconstructions of this previously unknown family of prehistoric crocodiles.
Sereno even visited zoologist and crocodile scientist Dr. Adam Britton in Australia to really get a feel for how his newly discovered prehistoric crocodiles would have moved and functioned in the past. The results were presented with stunning graphics and fascinating details in the National geographic documentary When Crocs Ate Dinosaurs .
Top image: digital reconstruction of an Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur and a prehistoric crocodile Sarcosuchus or SuperCroc. Source: Michael Rosskothen /Adobe Stock
By Cecilia Bogaard