They had teeth the size of bananas, bus and limos length, and preyed on foraging dinosaurs near their waterways.
That was one of the findings presented in a new study published this week of a giant ancient animal known as the “terror alligator,” or Deinosuchus.
Research published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology shows that Deinosuchus, a breed of giant alligator from North America, grows up to 33 feet large and “is the largest predator in its ecosystem. , “at the end of the Cretaceous period about 75 to 82 million years ago.
Adam Cossette, a vertebrate paleontologist who led the study, said in an email Tuesday that it is difficult to determine their average sizes because there are so few known specimens. come, “the specimens we have are all HUGE. “
Dr. Cossette, of the New York State University Institute of Technology’s College of Osteoarthritis Medicine, says that the large specimens are between 30 and 35 feet long and weigh about 8,000 pounds. For comparison, he said that a large American alligator today is about 12 to 13 feet long, weighs about 700 to 800 pounds, and has teeth about 3 inches long at the tip of its snout.
He also said that ancient reptiles had a head large enough and jaws strong enough to prey on dinosaurs living among them.
“Deinosuchus is a giant that must definitely terrorize dinosaurs to the edge of the water for a drink, ”he said in a statement. “Up to now, the complete animal is unknown. These new specimens we examined show a bizarre, monstrous predator.
In addition to killing dinosaurs, animals, because of their size, can prey on anything that wander their path. Researchers found multiple bites on turtle shells and dinosaur bones.
They also found that at least three Deinosuchus species roamed the area today, the United States and Mexico. Two species live in the West, from Montana to northern Mexico, and the other along the Atlantic coastal plains, from New Jersey to Mississippi.
Research says that although the genus name means “terror crocodile”, the creatures are more closely related to the crocodile. But since they have a “giant skull”, they don’t look like a crocodile or a crocodile.
The long and broad snout “but bulges forward around the nose in a way that has not been seen in any other crocodile species, living or extinct”, the researchers said, using alternative spelling. crocodile.
The reason for its enlarged nose is still unknown, researchers say. They also do not know why the animal has two large holes in the tip of the snout, in front of the nose.
“These holes are unique to Deinosuchus,” said Dr. Cossette. “Further research will hopefully help us uncover this mystery.”
His colleague in the study, Christopher Brochu, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Iowa, said that the fossils suggesting that the crocodile was “not” a living fossil “has not changed since the time. Great dinosaur ”.
“They have grown dynamically like any other group,” he said in the statement.
“The earliest ancestors of alligators, such as Deinosuchus, were bizarre and unlike anything we see in modern crocodiles today,” Dr. Cossette said in an email. “Crocodylia’s evolutionary history is much more intriguing than it is to see the eye.”
Mark A. Norell, curator and president of the paleontology department of the American Museum of Natural History, said the study had many new findings, especially about the bizarre inflation at the end of the skull. , the animal’s weight and size, and the shape of its skull.
And Dr. Norell said there is much more to learn, because fossils of these animals are still very rare, well collected and studied. “Often times collecting and studying them is a new thought,” he said, as most of the work done on these formations and sediments is dominated by dinosaurs.