The Mighty Sarcosuchus

The new world crocodilians are one of the deadliest predators alive on the planet. While we’ve seen them, whether face to face or in some documentaries which run on the infographic channels like Animal Planet and National Geographic, there’s no debate on the fact that these apex predators haven’t evolved for millions of years. But, what if I tell you that that they instead of eating zebras or wildebeests as they do today, they were chomping on dinosaurs during the cretaceous. Sarcosuchus was one such croc. One of the largest crocodilian species to ever exist this beast grew to a staggering 9.5m(31ft) and weighed about 4.3 metric tons.

They were apex predators of their habitat and preyed on fish and dinosaurs. Just like the new crocodilians hunting down their prey, sarcosuchus was an ambush predator waiting for the perfect opportunity to kill their prey.

Difference With The Modern Crocodiles

Picture Credit: Paul Cereno

Despite the shared resemblance of the modern crocs with the sarcosuchus, there were still some differences that were present when researchers discovered the fossilised remains of the sarcosuchus.

Osteoderms And Scutes

The difference between the two based on their skeletal structure brings out a fascinating point that provides insight into how they lived and what they fed on, but also the presence of osteoderms and scutes on their bodies. Osteoderms are bony structures that form plates, scales and structures based on dermis. They are responsible for thermoregulation and protection of the animal. While scutes are similar but they are made from keratin and form scales on reptilian bodies. The only drawback with osteoderms is that of restriction in the locomotion of the animal. As the sarcosuchus was a big reptile and a massive one on top of it, it had large osteoderms with some measuring to around 1 metres (3 feet long), while it protected sarcosuchus from any attack from other predators it heavily restricted their movement. As for the modern crocodiles, they have vascularised osteoderms which are perfectly segmented and have probably allows better locomotion than the ones sarcosuchus have.

Picture Credit: Researchgate

Jaw Structure And Bite Force

Now let’s go one better and talk about the jaw structure of these two predators.

As we can see these two have have good jaw structure which allows them to grab on to their prey very easily, making it difficult for the prey to escape. The main difference between the jaws comes when bite force and jaw muscles and predation comes around. The muscles have the same function to generate a strong bite force to clamp down on their prey, but they had weak muscles to open their jaws just like modern crocodiles. The force generated by the sarcosuchus was an astonishing 18,000 psi compared to 3700 psi of a saltwater crocodile, the numbers are simply mind-boggling and shows just how dangerous sarcosuchus would have been during its prime. But there’s a catch to it, while crocodiles are known for their death roll, sarcosuchus probably wasn’t able to perform these as they were quite large in size and had a narrow jaw which was meant for grabbing and holding their prey rather than slashing. This type of teeth structure might vary in modern day crocodiles and alligators but they all have the same mechanism.

The facts that I’ve mentioned are just some, since the research is still ongoing more amazing things are still yet to be unearthed.

As always stay safe and take it easy 🐊. If you like what I write do like and share with your friends if they like such topics.

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Abhidyu Ajila

Abhidyu Ajila

A zoology student who talks animals, conservation, evolution and geography