Ancient Crocodile Teeth Discovered in New Study

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A new study revisiting fossils from the gigantic Late Cretaceous Crocodylian and Deinosuchus period lead to the discovery of more bones related to the pre-historic creatures. The study was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on July 29, 2020, was led by Adam Cossette. He is a vertebrate paleobiologist at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University.

The Deinosuchus were among the largest crocodylians ever in existence, reaching up to 33 feet in length and it was known to have teeth the size of bananas.  The study’s co-author Christopher Brochu, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Iowa stated that despite being called “terror crocodiles” they were more related to alligators.  Cossette further added that this creature  “was a giant that must have terrorized dinosaurs that came to the water’s edge to drink”, similar to the tactic of the modern-day alligator and crocodile.

They are believed to have lived 75 and 82 million years ago.”Some of them were separated by a seaway that at one point cut North America in half from what’s now the Gulf of Mexico up to the Arctic Ocean,” Brochu stated.  The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, states that there are three different species of  Deinosuchus. Deinosuchus hatcheries and Deinosuchus Riograndensis are thought to have roamed around  Montana to northern Mexico. While the Deinosuchus Schwimmerwas thought to have roamed through New Jersey to Mississippi.

These terror crocodiles were believed to have long broad snouts, with two holes at the very tip. Giving the illusion that the front is inflated. The use of the holes in the creature’s skull is still uncertain. Today’s reptiles are thought to all look very similar but that is not the case according to Cossette. He stated, “Most people think crocodiles haven’t changed in 75 million years; This study shows that the ancestors of today’s American alligator didn’t look anything like them.”.

The study that leads to the discovery of these terror crocodiles was originally conducted in 2018. “Until now, the complete animal was unknown,” stated Cossette. He then added, “Crocodiles are actually these incredibly dynamic creatures that have experienced incredible evolutionary histories, have lived in places that modern crocodiles don’t live, done things that modern crocodiles don’t do and have grown to sizes that modern crocodiles never achieve.”.

This predator would have been the biggest of its kind in its original ecosystem.  Brochu stated, “It was a strange animal,” it varied in different sizes, shapes, colors, and even bone structure. It is believed that some of the bite marks found on other dinosaur bones matched those of the terror crocodile. Meaning that when it would attack its prey and the bite would reach the bone. Then the grip would be so powerful that the bone would break.

It is unknown what happened to the Deinosuchus and how they became extinct, as the study continued authors found that they disappeared before the main mass extinction at the end of the age of dinosaurs. Both Brochu and Cossette assert this paper disproves the idea that crocodylians are living fossils, or in other words, animals that never evolved. “There’s this concept out there that crocodylians are unchanging forms… That is simply not true.”.

While today’s reptiles are mostly tamed, kept in zoos, hidden in deep jungles, and sometimes kept as pets. It is hard not to imagine what their distant relatives might have looked like. Causing questions like, what damaged could they have caused modern-day predators, or would they have a better impact on today’s ecosystem? How would the food chain change? Would they help modern medicine?  But as today’s paleontologist, scientist and other specialist study the past, and conduct further research, we will be unsure. Until then we have the terror Crocodile, their enormous teeth, and their really big bones.

Written by Trinity Simmons-Brooks
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware


NPR:‘Teeth The Size Of Bananas’; New Study Paints Picture Of ‘Terror Crocodiles’

CNET: Ancient ‘terror crocodile’ had teeth the size of bananas

CNN: The earth was once home to ‘terror crocodiles’ nearly the size of city buses

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Featured Image Courtesy of Andrea Young’s Flikr Page – Creative Commons