A new species of crocodile has been discovered in North Carolina and the researchers suggest that it is the oldest and largest crocodile relative ever known. The new study suggests that before the dominance of dinosaurs in our continent, Carnufex carolinensis ruled the scene. About 230 million years ago these crocs, having a length of nine feet, were fierce predators that walked on its hind legs. About a decade ago, the fossil of the deadly crocodile was discovered and since then its bones have been on display in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Lindsay Zanno, assistant professor at North Carolina State University and lead author of the new research paper said “When we got the bones out and prepared them, we found out that it was actually a really cool species. It was one of the oldest and largest members of crocodylomorph — the same group that crocodiles belong to — that we’ve ever seen. And that size was really surprising.” Zanno added “It was clearly a top predator. That’s a niche we didn’t know animals like this were filling.”
The crocodile roamed North Carolina, which millions of years ago was a lush, warm and wet region. Most of the relatives of crocodiles belonging to that era were smaller in size and lower on the food chain. However, the Carolina Butcher, as the researchers call it, was possibly one of the fiercest animals around. However, with the end of Triassic period the Carolina Butcher gave away its reign to the dinosaurs. Although these big crocs became extinct with time, the little ones survived.
Zanno further stated “We knew that there were too many top performers on the proverbial stage in the Late Triassic Period… Yet, until we deciphered the story behind Carnufex, it wasn’t clear that early crocodile ancestors were among those vying for top predator roles prior to the reign of dinosaurs in North America.”