The Giant Crocodile Dinosaur that Would Have Eclipsed the T. Rex

Monday, December 31, 2018

Razanandrongobe sakalavae life reconstruction by James Kuether

Sorry, T. rex fan bois, you always seem to get the rough end of the stick, don’t you?

At one point your hero was thought to be the king of the dinosaurs. A savage, gigantic ferocious hunter, then it turned out he was probably more akin to a vulture. A giant turkey scavenging its prey (that must have stung). And now this crocodile like thing comes along and might makes your boy topple even further down the cool-o-meter!

Plus you know, your favourite dinosaur can’t clap at jokes and stuff. “Take my strong hand T. rex”.


Fresh discoveries in Madagascar

Discoveries have been made in Madagascar where they have found the remains of this crocodile-like species. It has helped scientists fill in gaps in the lineage of the modern crocodile…so it’s kind of a big deal.

I talk like this is a recent discovery but actually, researchers have had bones from this beast for some 10 years.

At first, they thought it was a hunter from the Jurassic period. It was named Razanandrongobe sakalavae, meaning “giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava region.” Catchy eh?

New species, wrong time

The scientists knew they had a new species on their hand but couldn’t figure out where it fell in terms of evolution.

It had a lot in common with two distinct groups: crocodylomorphs (which sounds like an awesome cartoon!), this is the group the modern crocodile belongs too…you got that, right? And Theropods which is the group the T. rex belongs to.

Fast forward to the current day and scientists have gone back through these old fossils and made some new discoveries. Alongside the older bones, they have several fragments believed to be from the skull of similar creatures.

Razanandrongobe sakalavae

Old crusty bones

The fossils actually date back to the Cretaceous period. (Yeah not all dinosaurs are Jurassic dinosaurs…shock horror!) And were found over several continents. However, scientists think that the lineage of this species goes back way further, ironically back to the Jurassic period.  Which was roughly 174 to 163 million years ago. The problem was until recently there was no fossil evidence to support this.

As a consequence of this Cristiano Dal Sasso, from the Natural History Museum of Milan, Italy, have now placed this creature in the Nortosuchia family tree.

Easy big fella

Although scientists aren’t quite sure of the exact size of the creature due to not having quite enough fossils to figure out they do believe that it would have been a big animal. Initial estimates have it pegged between 34 and 39 feet long!

What that basically means is that this big crocodile was massive and would have been above dinosaurs like the T. rex in the food chain. Sorry T. rex fans, it’s not easy being you!

The gigantic predatory dinosaur would have wondered the supercontinent of Gondwana including Madagascar before it separated from the mainland.

Studies have shown that its teeth were large and hard. The suggestion is that this bad boy would have been able to destroy fragments such as bone with its powerful jaws.

Razanandrongobe snout

Changing the game

Study co-author Simone Maganuco has suggested that due to the places where fossilised remains have been found that the dinosaur probably had an endemic lineage. The recent fossil discoveries also go some way to suggesting that Razanandrongobe sakalavae originated in southern Gondwana.

According to researchers, Razanandrongobe sakalavae is a species that is dissimilar from any presently known member of Notosuchia. It is important because it fills in a gap in the group’s evolution. It is also prominent because it shows that animals in this lineage were at one point far larger than initially thought.