WASHINGTON (AP) -- A crocodile longer than a school bus and weighing about 10 tons was the top predator in an African river 110 million years ago, routinely dining on large dinosaurs that came within range of its toothy jaws.
"When this thing grew into an adult it was really a monster," Paul C. Sereno, a well-known dinosaur hunter at the University of Chicago, said in an interview. "This thing could have easily pulled down a good-sized dinosaur."
Fossils of the monster croc were uncovered in a desert in Niger last year by Sereno and his team. The species, called Sarcosuchus imperator, or "flesh crocodile emperor," was first discovered by French scientists in 1964, but the Sereno find is the most complete fossil skeleton known.
A report on the discovery is to be published Thursday by the journal Science on its web site Science Express.
Sereno said that the elongated skull of the Sarcosuchus (pronounced SARK-oh-SOOK-us) is about six feet in length and dominated by narrow jaws studded with more than 100 teeth. The upper jaw, tipped with large, sharp and powerful incisors, overlaps the lower jaw, an ideal design to lock and hold onto flesh.
"The teeth are incredibly stout," he said. "They are crushing, penetrating teeth," which means the animal probably fed on land animals more than on fish and turtles, the most common food of modern crocodiles and alligators.
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