A giant crocodile-like creature that lived in Madagascar more than 150 million years ago had a large jaw and serrated teeth similar to those of the Tyrannosaurus rex, suggesting that it, like the predatory dinosaur, fed on bones and other hard animal tissues, a new study has revealed.
The species, whose scientific name is Razanandrongobe sakalavae (“giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava region”), had straight legs and a skull unlike those of modern-day crocodiles, according to BBC News. It is thought to be the earliest and largest member of a group of early crocodilians known as Notosuchians – a clade which lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
In fact, in a press release, lead author Cristiano Dal Sasso from the Natural History Museum of Milan and his colleagues reported that Razanandrongobe sakalavae (Razana, for short) predates what had been the earliest-known Notosuchians by around 42 million years.
Based on the shape of the skull and an analysis of the creature’s anatomical features, Dal Sasso and his colleagues identified Razana as a relative of South American baurusuchids and sebecids, a group of predators that had deep skulls and powerful erect limbs. Razana was reportedly about 7 meters long and weighed between 800 and 1,000 kilograms (about 1,700 to 2,200 pounds).
Creature walked upright, was capable of challenging dinosaurs
Like its relatives, Razana “could outcompete even theropod dinosaurs, at the top of the food chain,” Dal Sasso said in a statement. While the creature was previously known to scientists, it could not be officially classified until the discovery of new fossils that helped fill in gaps about the creature’s lineage.
What those fossils revealed, according to USA Today, is that Razana was roughly the same size as a pick-up truck and had 46 to 48 serrated teeth – which, according to the wear and tear found on those dental fossils, were used to devour the bones and tendons of its prey. In fact, Dal Sasso told the newspaper, even dinosaurs sometimes found their way onto the creature’s menu.
Razana “was really a bone-cruncher” and “could challenge a theropod dinosaur,” he explained. Its teeth had even larger serrations than the T. rex, which allowed the primitive crocodile to even consume theropods and pterosaurs. It likely stood at or near the top of the Middle Jurassic food chain and is believed to have been both a scavenger and an ambush predator.
Furthermore, Razana probably walked upright and was most likely capable of achieving speeds of up to 20 mph in short bursts, Joe Sertich, a researcher from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science who was not involved with the new study, told USA Today. The discovery of the fossils also indicates that Notosuchians most likely originated in southern Gondwana – a supercontinent comprised of Madagascar, Africa, Australia and South America, according to BBC News.
“Its geographic position during the period when Madagascar was separating from other landmasses is strongly suggestive of an endemic lineage. At the same time, it represents a further signal that the Notosuchia originated in southern Gondwana” study co-author Simone Maganuco, also from the Natural History Museum of Milan, added in a statement.
Image credit: Milan Natural History Museum