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Prehistoric Croc May Have Been Scarier Than Dinosaurs

Photo from Fabio Manucci

Around 165 million years ago, Madagascar was home to a diversity of unusual dinosaurs and reptiles. One of the ruling predators was Razanandrongobe sakalavae or “giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava region,” a massive relative of modern-day crocodiles that walked on land and was probably one of the most-feared creatures of the day.

Nicknamed Razana after “Razana, Eater of Worlds,” this prehistoric crocodile was first documented in research over ten years ago when fragmented fossils were found on the island, Gizmodo reports. But the limitations of science then made it unable for scientists to classify the creature’s classification. For a long time, it remained unclear if the mid-Jurassic creature was a meat-eating therapod dinosaur, or a different kind of reptile altogether.

Now, a team of Italian and French paleontologists were able to collect new fossils of jaws and teeth from the same region the previous ones were found, in northwestern Madagascar.

These fossils reveal that the Razana was actually a relative of present-day crocodiles and alligators.

Razana was a “notosuchian,” which was a group of crocodilians that were different from their cousins in many ways. These reptiles were terrestrial, with legs that were straight and erect under their bodies so that they could run after prey – much like the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

In addition, notosuchians had elevated skulls instead of the flatter ones on crocodiles now, and were huge. They ranged over Gondwana during the Mesozoic Era, and findings show that Razana was perhaps the most formidable of them all.

This species was larger than any other known notosuchian, and the recovered fragments of skull point to a head that was as large as a washing machine. It had rows of serrated teeth the size of bananas, meaning it could easily bite into and chew its prey to bits in no time.

Cristiano Dal Sasso, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Milan and one of the paper’s authors, said, “‘Razana’ could outcompete even theropod dinosaurs, at the top of the food chain.”

The study was published in the journal PeerJ.

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