Name Meaning: Flesh Crocodile
Geologic Era: Cretaceous
Location Discovered: Sahara Desert
Size: 10+ meters in length
Estimated Range: Africa
Extinction Date: Cretaceous Period
One of the largest crocodiles to ever live, Sarcosuchus would have been one of the top predators of its day. Though it was discovered in a desert, its habitat would have been more akin to a swamp (possibly comparable to the American Southeast). Sarcosuchus would have been considered a generalist predator, meaning it would eat whatever it could catch. On the menu would have been fish and quite possibly dinosaurs as well.
Our tooth is sadly not a real fossil, but a cast. Still, it is an impressive specimen. Only the top third or so of the tooth would be above the gum line (the lighter part). Small though this may seem, these teeth were still daunting weapons that would have given most opponents second thoughts about challenging Sarcosuchus.
I had the privilege of attending one of the first presentations of this animal by its discoverer, Dr. Paul Sereno. Even as a middle school student, I was struck by the size of this reptile, which dwarfs even the largest modern crocodile. The thought that there existed a predator that could have given large predatory dinosaurs competition was amazing to me. Sarcosuchus was twice the length of a modern saltwater crocodile, which is the largest modern crocodilian.
Though Sarcosuchus probably had a diet not unlike the modern Nile crocodile, it probably could not have performed a “death roll” as its modern counterparts do. How it broke prey down to ingest it is still up for debate, but could have involved submerging the prey until it was decomposed enough to easily rip apart.
Full Skeleton:By Valerie Everett from Indianapolis, USA (Whole giant croc) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Life Reconstruction:By User:ArthurWeasley (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons