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Type of predator
Living period

Sarcosuchus-SuperCroc

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Description

    Sarcosuchus meaning "flesh crocodile", and commonly called "SuperCroc", is an extinct genus of crocodyliform and distant relative of the crocodile that lived 112 million years ago. It dates from the early Cretaceous Period of what is now Africa and is one of the largest giant crocodile-like reptiles that ever lived. It was almost twice as long as the modern saltwater crocodile and weighed approximately 8 to 10 tonnes.

 

Sarcosuchus the Prehistoric ancestor of today crocodile_large


     Until recently, all that was known of the species was a few fossilized teeth and armor plates, which were exposed in the Sahara Desert by the French paleontologist Albert-Felix de Lapparent in the 1940s or 1950s. However, in 1997 and 2000, Paul Sereno discovered a half a dozen new specimens, counting one with about half the skeleton intact, and most of the spine. All of the other giant crocodiles are recognized only from a few partial skulls, so which is actually the biggest is an open question.


    The largest SuperCroc was the oldest, because it kept rising through its entire 50–60 year lifespan. Modern crocodiles grow at a rapid rate, attainment their adult size in about a decade, and then grow more slowly afterwards. The SuperCroc probably grew at the same rate, but kept growing for up to 40 years before reaching its full adult size.Its jaws alone were as big as a human adult (1.8 m, or 6 ft). The upper jaw overlaps the lower jaw, creating an overbite, and together was narrow. The snout composes about 75 percent of the skull's length.
 

Sarcosuchus the Prehistoric ancestor of today crocodile_large

 

 

Physical characteristics

       Taking into consideration that  saltwater crocodile is the largest modern species, reaches only  half that length (6.3 m, or 20.7 ft, is the longest long-established individual), and a small fraction of the weight (1,000 kg, or 1.1 tons) compared with “SuperCroc” - Sarcosuchus Dinosaur which fully mature, was as extended as a city bus (11–12 m, or 37–40 ft), and weighed up to 8,000 kg (8.8 short tons), as much as the major known terrestrial carnivore, the dinosaur Giganotosaurus.  Its jaws alone measured 6 feet (1.8 meters)—as long as a tall human.

Sarcosuchus the Prehistoric ancestor of today crocodile_large

  

     It’s contained 132 thick teeth (Larsson said they were like "railroad spikes"). The teeth are conical and designed for grabbing and holding, instead of being narrow and designed for slashing (like the teeth of most land-dwelling carnivores). It could probably exert a force of 18,000 lbf (80 kN) with its jaw, making very improbable that prey could escape. Unlike today’s crocodilians, SuperCroc’s skull grew wider toward the front of its snout, which was studded with a row of enlarged incisors. These bone-crushers,  indicate Sarcosuchus could eat far meatier prey than fish.


Sarcosuchus the Prehistoric ancestor of today crocodile_large

      It had a row of overlapping bony plates, or scutes, running down its back, the main of which were 1 m (3 ft) long. The scutes served as armor and may have helped support its great mass, but also restricted its flexibility.

      Like a gharial, the SuperCroc had an air cell in a bony projection at the tip of its snout (a bulla), which might have augmented its sense of smell, or been used for a variety of vocalizations.

      Sarcosuchus also had a strange depression at the end of its snout. Called a bulla, it has been compared to the ghara seen in gharials. Unlike the ghara, though, the bulla is present in all Sarcosuchus skulls that have been found so far. This suggests it was not a sexually selected characteristic; only the male gharial has a ghara. The purpose of this structure remains enigmatic. Sereno and others asked various reptile researchers what their thoughts on this bulla were. Opinions ranged from it being an olfactory enhancer to being connected to a vocalization device

 

Behavior and diet

    SuperCroc could almost certainly make a wide range of vocalizations, from grunts and squeaks to hisses, growls, barks, bellows, and roars. The SuperCrocs may have used these sounds to stake out territory, to attract mates, and to converse with their progeny.
Sarcosuchus's eye sockets rotate upwards, so it probably spent most of its time with the bulk of its body submerged, watching the shore for prey.


Sarcosuchus the Prehistoric ancestor of today crocodile_large

      It seems likely that it ate the large fish and turtles of the Cretaceous. But the overhanging jaw and stout teeth are designed for grabbing and crushing, so its main prey was probably large animals and smaller dinosaurs, which it ambushed, dragged into the water, drowned, and then tore apart.
     It may have even come into disagreement with the Suchomimus, an 11 m (36 ft) fish-eating dinosaur with a strangely crocodilian jaw, whose fossils were establish in the same rock formation as the SuperCroc. According to Sereno, "because the ancient animal was so large, it could easily grip huge dinosaurs, including the massive long-necked, small-headed sauropods that were common in that African region".
    Other crocodilian biologists are cynical of the animal's "giant killing" capabilities. The long, thin snout of the SuperCroc is very alike to the thin snouts of the gharial, false gharial, and the slender-snouted crocodile, all of which are nearly elite fish-eaters, and incapable of tackling large prey. This can be contrasted to both the modern Nile crocodile and the died out Deinosuchus which have very broad, heavy skulls, suitable for dealing with large prey. This, coupled with the abundance of large, lobe-finned fish in its environment, leads many to propose that, far from being a dinosaur killer, SuperCroc was simply a large piscivore, a scaled-up version of the new gharial.
     However, while the snout of the juvenile SuperCroc powerfully resembles modern narrow-snouted crocodiles in width, it expands radically in mature SuperCrocs. While still considerably narrower than the snout of a Nile crocodile, in grown-up SuperCrocs it is also much wider than the snouts of crocodylians like the gharial. In addition, the teeth do not interlock like those of the elite fish-eaters, which suggests that like the Nile crocodile it may have complemented a first and foremost piscean diet with terrestrial animals, at least upon adulthood.
On the other hand, the lobe-finned fish that shared the waters with Sarcosuchus were often in surplus of 6 feet (1.8 m) long and 200 lb (90 kg) in weight, raising the option those adoptions which seem to indicate large or moderate-sized terrestrial prey may instead be adaptations to dealing with very large fish (many species of which possessed a layer of bony scales, called osteoderms, for protection).



Environment

      110 million years ago, in the Early Cretaceous, the Sahara was still a great tropical plain, dotted with lakes and crossed by rivers and streams that were lined with vegetation. Based on the number of fossils discovered, the aquatic Sarcosuchus was probably plentiful in these warm, shallow, freshwater habitats.

     Unlike modern true crocodiles, which are very similar in size and shape to one another and tend to live in different areas; Sarcosuchus was just one of many Crocodyliformes, of different sizes and shapes, all living in the same area. Four other species of extinct Crocodyliformes were also discovered in the same rock formation along with the Sarcosuchus, including a dwarf crocodile with a tiny, 8 cm (3 in) long skull.They filled a diverse variety of ecological niches, instead of competing with each other for resources.

       The Sarcosuchus remains are from several individuals and include a spine (vertebrae), limb bones, hip bones (a pelvic girdle), the bony armored plates that ran down its back (scutes) and more than a half-dozen skulls. Many crocodyliform skulls are thick and heavy.[citation needed] They tend to be found more frequently than the rest of the body. This is quite a contrast with dinosaurs, whose relatively fragile skulls rarely become part of the fossil record.

 

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http://www-news.uchicago.edu
http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/10495732.jpg
http://emerson3d.cgsociety.org/gallery/862196/
http://jelsin.deviantart.com/art/krakovias-river-crocodiles-69586210
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcosuchus
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/supercroc/   and National geographic artwork
http://www.rareresource.com/sarcosuchus.htm
http://ecosystems.wcp.muohio.edu/

 

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