The terrible crocodile, Deinosuchus (1909)
Phylum : ChordataClass : Reptilia
Superorder : Crocodylomorpha
Order : Crocodilia
Superfamily : Alligatoroidea
Genus : Deinosuchus
Species : D. rugosus
- Late Cretaceous (80 - 73 Ma)
- 10 m long and 10 000 kg (size)
- Bladen county, USA (map)
The “deino” in Deinosuchus derives from the same root as the “dino” in dinosaur, connoting “fearsome” or “terrible.” In this case, the description is apt: Deinosuchus was one of the largest prehistoric crocodiles that ever lived, attaining lengths of about 33 feet and weights in the neighborhood of 5 to 10 tons. In fact, this late Cretaceous reptile was once thought to be the largest crocodile that ever lived, until the discovery of the truly monstrous Sarcosuchus put it firmly in second place.
(Ancient crocodiles were constantly growing—in the case of Deinosuchus, at the rate of about one foot per year—so it’s hard to know exactly how long the longest-lived specimens were.)
Amazingly, the preserved fossils of two North American tyrannosaurs—Appalachiosaurus and Albertosaurus—bear evidence of Deinosuchus bite marks. It’s not clear if these individuals succumbed to the attacks, or went on to scavenge for another day, but you have to admit that a 30-foot long crocodile lunging at a 30-foot long tyrannosaur makes for a compelling picture!
Other than its enormous proportions, Deinosuchus was remarkably similar to modern crocodiles—an indication of how little the crocodilian line of evolution has changed over the past 100 million years. Of course, this raises the question of why crocodiles managed to make it past the KI/T Extinction Event 65 million years ago, while their dinosaur, pterosaur, and marine reptiles cousins all went kaput—a question that’s explored in-depth in this article…
Why Did Crocodiles Survive the K/T Extinction?