March 8th


We’ve been taking a look at non-dinosaurian Mesozoic marauders this week and today we’re dealing with a lineage that persists in the modern world–crocodilians. The direct forebears of today’s crocs, gators, caimans, and gariols arose around 83.5 million years ago in the late Cretaceous. But crocodilian-like animals have been around since at least the Triassic–more than 200 million years ago. Various groups of the these predators, with powerful bodies and gigantic heads, have come and gone in the millennia since their origin.

Gary Staab atop his Sarcosuchus model / KCUR

Today, the biggest crocodilians can grow to nearly 20 feet long. But 112 million years ago, Sarcosuchus grew to 40 feet long and weighed 8 tons. It could easily have fed on a wide variety of dinosaurs, and its ancestors and descendants have been ambushing any prey that crosses their path.

There have been many giant predators in the fossil record, and many gigantic crocodilians. Unlike the pterosaurs, ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, and pliosaurs we’ve met previously in our series, the crocodilian family continues to thrive in the modern world. But the Mesozoic was rife with giant animals that were not predators. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some gentler giants.

Until then, post your favorite photos of extinct and extant crocodilians and share them with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.