Unearthed bones prove 'super-croc' was as big as a bus

It not only walked with dinosaurs, it ate them as well. The bones of an extinct species of crocodile that grew to the length of a London bus, weighed as much as a small whale and was armed with a set of 6ft jaws has been unearthed from an African desert.

It not only walked with dinosaurs, it ate them as well. The bones of an extinct species of crocodile that grew to the length of a London bus, weighed as much as a small whale and was armed with a set of 6ft jaws has been unearthed from an African desert.

So enormous was this "super-croc", scientists believe it would have had no problem tackling dinosaurs that lived with it in an ancient swamp some 110 million years ago.

The latest fossilised bones to be dug out of the Tenere Desert of Niger in West Africa suggest that the supercrocodile grew up to 40ft long, weighed more than eight tons and lived for about 60 years.

Although a partial skull of the species, named Sarchosuchus imperator or "flesh crocodile emperor", was first discovered in 1964, the latest specimens reveal the true nature of the beast – the biggest crocodilian reptile discovered to date.

Paul Sereno, a renowned dinosaur specialist at the University of Chicago, led the team which yesterday published a description of the most complete skeleton of the crocodile in the journal Science.

"This new material gives us a good look at hyper-giant crocodiles. There's been rampant speculation about what they looked like and where they fit in the croc family tree, but no one had enough of the skull and skeleton to really nail any of the true croc giants down until now," Dr Sereno said.

Although the site of the find now bakes in temperatures of 65C, it was once a wet, warm area similar to Florida, where giant crocodiles competed with equally large meat-eating dinosaurs for prey comprising of 20ft sauropods – long-necked vegetarian dinosaurs.

Sarchosuchus had a jaw studded with about 100 "stout, smooth and rounded" teeth for puncturing and crushing. The upper jaw overhung the lower jaw by several inches, suggesting the creature attacked large prey in a death grip, similar to the killing method favoured by crocodiles today.

"A small sauropod, 20 or 30 feet in length, would have been no problem. Once one of these [jaws] clamped onto the leg or neck of an animal, there wasn't a lot it could do," Dr Sereno said.

One of the distinguishing features of the species was that it was covered from head to mid-tail in overlapping bony plates, called scutes, embedded in the skin, which evidently acted as body armour.

The annual growth rings of the scutes analysed by the scientists suggest that Sarchosuchus took between 50 and 60 years to reach full size. This is surprisingly long-lived for a crocodile, they said.

Eye sockets in the skull point upwards and suggest that the animal lurked submerged for long periods while watching the shoreline. "This suggests it was an ambush predator, hiding under the water and then surging out to grab anything lounging on the shore," he said.

A large growth at the end of the snout has proved more difficult to explain. "Crocodilians are among the most vocal reptiles, so I wouldn't doubt that it may have been involved in both sound and smell," he said.

The scientists have unearthed six different crocodile species from the same period, suggesting it was a rich time for the reptilian group. Some "bite-sized" species grew no bigger than a terrapin, Dr Sereno said.

"That's the fascinating thing about crocodile evolution. It seems like modern crocodiles have been trimmed at each end of their size range, with the little ones and the big ones disappearing,"he said.

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ENGLISH TEACHER REQUIRED - Humbe...

Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are looking for a Qualified C...

Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

Year 1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 1 Primary Supply Teachers ne...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits