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Ancient “terror crocodiles” had teeth the size of a banana

This illustration shows Deinosuchus from bone to flesh.

Tyler Stone

Let’s turn the clock back millions of years to a time when crocodiles lived as long as buses on the American continent. A new study of Deinosuchus fossils has revealed more details about what these stunning predators looked like and how they behaved.

Deinosuchus, which can be translated as “terrible crocodile”

; or “terror crocodile,” ate dinosaurs, notes an article published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology in late July. The massive animals lived 75 to 82 million years ago and would have been at the top of the food chain.

“Until now, the entire animal was unknown. New specimens reveal a bizarre, monstrous predator with banana-sized teeth,” said lead author Adam Cossette on Monday in a press release from the magazine publisher Taylor & Francis. Cossette is a vertebrate paleontologist at the New York Institute of Technology.

These fossil specimens gave researchers a glimpse into the mouth of Deinosuchus.

Adam Cossette

University of Iowa Cossack and paleontologist Christopher Brochu examined skull fossils and bite marks to get a more complete picture of Deinosuchus, which was more closely related to alligators than crocodiles.

The paper helps clarify three different known species of Deinosuchus: Deinosuchus hatcheri and Deinosuchus riograndensis (from Montana to northern Mexico) and Deinosuchus schwimmeri (from New Jersey to Mississippi).

While Deinosuchus’ reputation as a fearsome predator is now sealed, the animal remains mysterious in many ways. The researchers highlighted two large holes in the snout that had a previously unknown function.

“It was a strange animal,” said Brochu. “It shows that crocodiles are not ‘living fossils’ that haven’t changed since the age of the dinosaurs. They evolved as dynamically as any other group.”

The new understanding of Deinosuchus fits in well with some other recent scientific evidence about extinct relatives of crocodiles and alligators. Researchers found one old crocodile that walked on two legs and chased the Disappearance of massive Australian crocodiles due to fire and habitat loss.

If you think today’s alligators are intimidating, knowing that Deinosuchus doesn’t roam the waterways of the modern world can at least provide comfort. “Deinosuchus was a giant who must have terrorized dinosaurs who came to the water’s edge to drink,” said Cossette. But that’s all in the past.

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