A new study has revealed that 170 million years ago during the Middle Jurassic period, a monstrous crocodile apex predator wandered Madagascar. The giant crocodile over 23ft (7 meters), weighed between 1,760 and 2,200 pounds and had serrated fang teeth like a Tyrannosaur. Unlike modern crocodiles, these distant cousins (nicknamed ‘Razana’) walked on their hind feet as it attacked its prey.
The full name of the predatory crocodyliform is Razanandrongobe sakalavae, which means “giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava region”. Observed tooth damage in the fossils suggests “Razana”, was crunching on bones and tendons, allowing the land croc to eat whatever it wanted, including dinosaurs and the flying reptiles known as pterosaurs. Razana “could even challenge a (meat eating) theropod dinosaur,” says vertebrate paleontologist Cristiano Dal Sasso of Italy’s Natural History Museum of Milan, co-author of a new paper published in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ .
Razana was first described in a paper by Italian paleontologists in 2006, based on isolated teeth and a bone fragment. At that time they didn’t know whether Razana was a dinosaur similar to Tyrannosaurus rex or an unknown relative of crocodiles. With the discovery of cranial fossil paleontologists, Simone Maganuco, Cristiano Dal Sasso and Giovanni Pasini, were able to answer the questions from that first paper(1).
The new fossils provided evidence that classify Razana as a crocodile relative, the oldest and largest representative of the suborder of crocodylomorphs called Notosuchia, predating other forms like it by 42 million years. Key features of the cranial fossils that put Razana in the crocodile family, included nostrils facing to the front of the snout, lower jaw formation and a bony palate, as well as teeth and teeth sockets that expanded sideways. But Razana also has some features of a Tyrannosaur, that made this croc a fearsome predator. Unlike the conical teeth of modern crocodiles, Razana had some serrated teeth that were even larger than those found on T. rex and other similarly sized predatory dinosaurs. Like T. rex, Razana also had some chisel-like incisor teeth in the front that could be used to scrape meat from bones.
(1) Citation to earlier study: Dal Sasso et al. (2017), Razanandrongobe sakalavae, a gigantic mesoeucrocodylian from the Middle Jurassic of Madagascar, is the oldest known notosuchian. PeerJ 5:e3481; DOI 10.7717/peerj.3481