It seems that nature, much like the scientists from Jurassic World, can’t get enough of making giant creatures that look like they belong in a monster movie. In 2013, scientists spotted “Deep Blue,” a 20-foot-long great white shark, which rivals the beast from Jaws. In 2015, footage of a 12-foot-long giant squid that would be right at home in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea was recorded by Japanese news. A 4.5-foot-long salamander was recently found in China, which, while harmless to humans, was still exceptionally huge for a salamander.
Adding to the list of giant creatures is the newly unearthed Machimosaurus rex, a seawater crocodile that lived during the Cretaceous period, measured over 30 feet long, and weighed more than 3 tons.
Federico Fanti of the University of Bologna in Italy and his colleagues discovered fossils of the M. rex in Tunisia, with support from the National Geographic Society. The rock croc stands as an important archaeological find for multiple reasons, including the time the crocodilian is dated.
The paper, published in Cretaceous Research, concludes that the Machimosaurus rex “definitively falsifies that these crocodylomorphs faced extinction at the end of the Jurassic.” This is a big deal because, as Brian Switek writes in National Geographic, “Paleontologists have long debated whether or not there was a mass extinction at the end of the Jurassic period, 145 million years ago.” And since this particular Machimosaurus was found in later layers of rock—dating from the Cretaceous period—it proves these scaly sea sultans were still in power after the end of the Jurassic, and therefore, the supposed mass extinction was probably not as massive, or not as fast, as previously thought.
This macho Machimo was a real monster too. According to the paper, the Machimosaurus rex had a head about five feet long and “was probably an ambush predator in the lagoonal environments that characterized the Tethyan Margin of Africa [the Northern tip of Africa].” Diet for the M. rex “included mid- to large-bodied dinosaurs,” and the fossils were even found next to the remains of a turtle it was probably going to have for lunch (M. rex could grind through carapaces easy-peasy-turtle-squeezy with its short, blocky teeth).
Considering the dating evidence, Fanti goes as far as to say that “the fact that Machimosaurus rex lived 130-120 million years ago indicate[s] that there was no mass [Jurassic] extinction,” which is a pretty big claim. But then again, this is a pretty big croc.
What do you think about the Machimosaurus rex? If you had to choose a croc to eat you for dinner like this, would the M. rex be your go-to beast? Let us know in the comments section below!
IMAGES: Davide Bonadonna; Federico Fanti