What's more terrifying than a T. rex? How about a prehistoric land crocodile that grew 40 feet long and ate dinosaurs? Recent research into prehistoric crocodiles uncovered a new species named Razanandrongobe sakalavae, or Razana for short. Scientists say Razana had teeth like Tyrannosaurus rex, was capable of galloping, and hunted dinosaurs. During the Jurassic period, Razana dominated Madagascar.
With all the attention dinos get, many people are surprised to learn lots of Jurassic animals weren't dinosaurs. Many share characteristics with modern animals. Take the shark, for example. The prehistoric shark ancestor megalodon grew 60 feet long, terrorizing the seas. Like the ancient crocodile, megalodon was much larger than its modern descendants. But while today's sharks can't live outside the water, Razana was a land creature capable of taking down dinosaurs. And that's not all - Razana didn't just dine on dino flesh, it also ate bones whole. Scientists even think it might have stood on two legs. Razana is ready to give T. rex a run for its money.
Razana Belongs To An Ancient Group Of Hardy Crocodiles
Razana proved to be the earliest notosuchian ever found. The group notosuchia, a branch of the larger crocodylomorpha, died out 10 million years ago. When the scientists identified Razana as a notosuchian, it was a major breakthrough in the field.
Razana was 42 million years older than any other notosuchian fossil, and Razana was also bigger than other members of the group.
The Prehistoric Crocodile Had An Advantage Over T. Rex
Today, we often think of T. rex as the apex predator of the entire dinosaur era. But Razana had a major advantage over T. rex: Razana could survive swallowing bone. Scientists believe the creature was durophagous, meaning it could crush bones with its jaw and eat them whole.
The ability to eat bones gave Razana a significant advantage over other predators. Razana benefited from a broader food source, which may explain its success.
The Find Solves The Ghost Crocodile Mystery
For years, scientists believed the group notosuchia dated back at least to the Jurassic period. But the lack of fossil evidence meant they couldn't prove it. For that reason, notosuchia's evolutionary tree was termed a ghost lineage.
With the discovery of Razana, scientists have now filled in the tree, demonstrating that notosuchia dates back at least 42 million years earlier than previously thought.
Razana Dominated The Jurassic Period, Once Thought To Belong To Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs weren't the only creatures that dominated the Jurassic period. Razana was one of the most fearsome predators of the era, even preying on dinosaurs. Scientists named Razanandrongobe sakalavae for its region and ancestors. The name means "giant lizard ancestor from the Sakalava region."
While the area of Madagascar where Razana dominated 165 million years ago today goes by the name Mahajanga, during Razana's day the geography was different. Madagascar had just broken off from Gondwana, the southern supercontinent.