Scientists have discovered fossils of a prehistoric crocodile in Madagascar that had enormous serrated teeth similar to those of the fearsome T-rex dinosaur.
The findings fill the gap in a million-year-long ghost lineage of Notosuchia, which was earlier unknown in the Jurassic period.
The full name of the predatory crocodyliform (nicknamed ‘Razana’) is Razanandrongobe sakalavae, which means “giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava region.”
Deep and massive jaw bones armed with enormous serrated teeth that are similar in size and shape to those of a T-rex strongly suggest that these animals fed also on hard tissue such as bone and tendon.
A combination of anatomical features clearly identify this taxon as a Jurassic notosuchian, close to the South American baurusuchids and sebecids, that were highly specialised predators of terrestrial habits, different from present-day crocodilians in having a deep skull and powerful erect limbs.
“Like these and other gigantic crocs from the Cretaceous, ‘Razana’ could outcompete even theropod dinosaurs, at the top of the food chain,” said Cristiano Dal Sasso, of the Natural History Museum of Milan in Italy.
Razanandrongobe sakalavae is by far the oldest – and possibly the largest – representative of the Notosuchia, documenting one of the earliest events of exacerbated increase in body size along the evolutionary history of the group.
“Its geographic position during the period when Madagascar was separating from other landmasses is strongly suggestive of an endemic lineage,” said Simone Maganuco from Natural History Museum of Milan.
“At the same time, it represents a further signal that the Notosuchia originated in southern Gondwana,” Maganuco said.