Scientists reveal new details on prehistoric horror-croc dinosaur

Contributed by
Jul 5, 2017

Thundering along the scorched dirt and canopied forests of the area now known as the island of Madagascar, a ferocious predator nicknamed Razana, the "Eater of Worlds," roamed with little fear of being challenged by other scavengers and theropod meat-eaters of the mid-Jurassic period.

Now confidently classified as a relative of today's crocodiles and alligators, the enormous horror croc officially catalogued as Razanandrongobe sakalavae reigned supreme some 170 million years ago, and destroyed its prey with a nightmarish mouth of jagged teeth. Recently-unearthed fossils from the Sakalava region have prompted a new report by Italian and French paleontologists, which helps to further define the dinosaur's position in the prehistoric kingdom's food chain.

Published in the online scientific journal, PeerJ, the study presents a bounty of rare cranial specimens of the Razana's jaws and teeth excavated from a site in northwestern Madagascar, which adds to the scant other fragmented remains gathered over the past ten years. This greatly increases scholars' knowledge and understanding of the colossal creature that evolved with a deep skull and walked erect. Its exact length (25-30 feet) and height can only be speculated upon, but the zucchini-sized, flesh-ripping, serrated teeth formed inside a head roughly as big as a modern refrigerator.

Here's an excerpt from the report:

On the basis of this new data, some previously uncertain features of the holotype maxilla—such as the margin of the suborbital fenestra, the contact surfaces for the palatine, the ectopterygoid, and the jugal—are now apparent. Testing of the phylogenetic position of the species within Crocodylomorpha indicates that R. sakalavae is a mesoeucrocodylian. It also represents one of the earliest events of exacerbated increase in body size along the evolutionary history of the group. In addition, it is by far the oldest notosuchian. A cranial reconstruction of this gigantic predator is also attempted here. The very robust jaw bones of R. sakalavae, coupled with its peculiar dentition, strongly suggest a diet that included hard tissue such as bone and tendon.

Razana technically belonged to the "notosuchians," a specialized group of crocodilians that bore only a slight resemblance to their still-existing cousins, and were adept at terrestrial life with straight-jointed legs positioned under their bodies for short-distance sprinting after terrified prey.

"'Razana' could outcompete even theropod dinosaurs, at the top of the food chain," noted Cristiano Dal Sasso, paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Milan and first author on the new study.

So, what do you think? Would you like to see a ravenous gang of these horror-crocs take on the Jurassic Park dinos in an upcoming Hollywood creature feature?

(via Gizmodo)