A colossal crocodile fossil has been unearthed in Tunisia, and according to researchers this ancient predator was roughly the size of a bus.
The fascinating discovery, presented on Monday, January 11 in the journal Cretaceous Research, can be attributed to a team of experts affiliated with the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration.
Federico Fanti, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bologna, was in charge with the excavation works, conducted in Tunisia, right in the immediate proximity of the Sahara Desert.
The area yielded an unexpectedly rich crop of fossils, pertaining to an enormous gator species, and also to several types of turtles and fish, which are yet to be classified.
Remnants of the ancient crocodile, which has recently been baptized “Machimosaurus rex”, were discovered relatively easy, given the fact that they were lying beneath just several inches of geological material.
Paleontologists spent a couple of days removing all the sediment enveloping the creature’s skull, while the rest of the fossil was much more speedily unearthed, as it was stretched out, almost in plain sight.
The now extinct reptile is thought to have measured approximately 32 feet in length, with its giant skull being over 60 inches long.
With such gargantuan proportions, the predator would’ve been twice as big as modern-day crocodiles, and almost as sizable as a bus, its crushing weight having been estimated at a staggering 6,600 pounds.
As study authors explain, Machimosaurus rex was an aquatic species, which thrived in this currently arid and inhospitable area, which used to be an ocean-side lagoon in ancient times.
From the shape and structure of its body, researchers could determine that this prehistoric crocodile had all the attributes of a skilled hunter.
According to them, the fearsome reptile probably relied on sit-and-wait attacks when trying to seize its quarry. Lurking in the background, the stealth predator likely ambushed its prey taking it completely by surprise, this strategy being much more effective than carrying out a speedy pursuit or relying on its tremendous strength.
Just as well, it may be that Machimosaurus rex was also a scavenger, sparing as much energy as possible by feeding on dead animals instead.
As far as its source of sustenance is concerned, researchers speculate that the apex predator probably favored large fish but also turtles, being able to quickly smash their hard protective shells with its short, yet incredibly strong jaws and round teeth.
Researchers are in awe with their findings not just because of the overwhelming size of this newly unearthed ancient crocodile.
Even more remarkably, this previously undocumented species actually calls into question prior scientific consensus, that had appeared to be set in stone.
More precisely, Machimosaurus rex actually pertains to a family of marine reptiles called teleosauridae, formerly believed to have disappeared approximately 150 million years ago, during a mass extinction which occurred as the Jurassic Period drew to a close.
And yet, this newly identified fossil dates back to around 130 million to 120 million years ago, which suggests that some teleosaurid reptiles managed to survive long after their supposed demise, inhabiting the seas even during the Early Cretaceous.
Now, faced with such indisputable evidence, researchers are trying to revise their prior theories, in order to fully comprehend what exactly occurred during the Late Jurassic, when a large number of ichthyosaurs and sauropods allegedly disappeared from the face of the Earth.
Image Source: Tasnim News