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.
It Likely Went After Large Prey
Today's crocodiles might sometimes take on a zebra or even a wildebeest, but a crocodile's typical diet consists mostly of fish and birds. Scientists believe that Razana, the prehistoric crocodile, could have eaten other dinosaurs.
Paleontologist Cristiano Dal Sasso from the Natural History Museum of Milan reports, “Like these and other gigantic crocs from the Cretaceous, Razana could outcompete even theropod dinosaurs, at the top of the food chain.”
The Mysterious Creature Once Ruled Madagascar
Scientists first uncovered the massive prehistoric crocodile in 2006. A team made up of French and Italian paleontologists discovered the fossils in Madagascar. For over 10 years, the scientists thought the fossils came from an Archosaur. The scientists speculated for years on whether the creature was a carnivorous dinosaur or a prehistoric crocodile.
The team, made up of Simone Maganuco, Cristiano Dal Sasso, and Giovanni Pasini, named the creature Razanandrongobe sakalavae.
- Photo: Cristiano Dal Sasso, Giovanni Pasini, Guillaume Fleury, Simone Maganuco / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0
Scientists Were Surprised By Razana's Size
Prehistoric crocodiles ranged in size from fairly small to enormous. Anatosuchus, for example, who lived 120 million years ago, was two feet long. The largest known crocodile ancestor, Sarcosuchus, was a stunning 39 feet long, earning it the nickname SuperCroc.
But Razana might prove even more massive than Sarcosuchus, according to scientists. Razana also predates Sarcosuchus, surprising scientists with its size. As the researchers state, Razana's discovery "documents a dramatic, somewhat unexpected, size increase in the early history of the group."
Razana's Lineage Includes The Boar Crocodile And Modern Crocs
Razana isn't a direct ancestor of modern crocodiles, but they're close cousins. The scientists who discovered Razana grouped the prehistoric crocodile with the notosuchians. That group is related to Kaprosuchus, a Late Cretaceous crocodile ancestor.
Kaprosuchus also goes by the name "boar crocodile," because of its large canines. Scientists trace the lineage of modern crocodiles back to both Razana and Kaprosuchus.