Extinct giant crocodiles lived alongside the dinosaurs more than 65 million years ago in an age when animals were supersized. It’s hard to imagine how massive and terrifying giant crocodiles would have been! They vastly outsize today’s crocodiles. The fossil record shows us just how large these super predators were, so here are 5 extinct giant crocodiles to have nightmares about.
This giant predator is a distant relative of today’s crocodilians, but it was much larger. Sarcosuchus reached 40 feet in length and weighed up to 10 tons. For comparison, saltwater crocs today reach around 17 feet and weigh around 1000 pounds, with the most massive reaching a bit more than a ton. This enormous crocodile has been dubbed “super croc” due to its size. Its scientific name Sarcosuchus means ‘flesh crocodile’ in ancient Greek.
It lived in present-day Africa and South America’s river systems from the Cretaceous era and onwards. At this point in time those areas were tropical, but today they are deserts.
Paleontologists think Sarcosuchus’ osteoderms (the scales that make their armored skin) covered their whole bodies rather than just the top section we see on modern crocs. This super protection would have meant they were very hard to kill, even by the massive carnivores than roamed the land alongside them. That means Sarcosuchus was likely an apex predator that took massive fish and dinosaurs from the riverside with their 100 sharp teeth.
A more recent extinct giant crocodile is the massive Purussaurus. This terrifying crocodilian lived around 8 million years, evolving from giant caimans. Its fossilized remains are only found in present-day South America.
Purussaurus got its name from the Purus river where remains have been found. It measured up to a gigantic 41 feet long with its head taking up five feet. It probably weighed up to 20,000 pounds and has an estimated bite force of 15,000 pounds, more than T-rex. This was certainly a giant crocodilian to be feared.
One difference between Purussaurus and other giant crocodiles was its speed. It could swim at 16 mph using its fleshy tail to propel it towards prey before performing the “death roll.” As well as this, Purussaurus had two-inch-long teeth that curved backward. This orientation indicates it caught fish and mammals, but experts think this giant croc also ate vegetation.
Its massive size meant that when the environment changed it wasn’t able to adapt as well as smaller animals. It became extinct alongside other megafauna of the age including saber tooth tigers, mammoths, and giant sloths.
Dakosaurus lived 150-130 million years in the late Jurassic shallow seas that covered most of northern Europe. The name means ‘biter lizard’ in ancient Greek which describes how it would have dismembered its prey with its large serrated teeth.
Unlike other giant crocodiles on this list, the Dakosaurus is different because although it was huge at 15 feet and weighing up to 2,000 pounds, it had flippers, a streamlined body, and a finned whale-like tail. Flippers instead of crocodilian feet meant they didn’t walk on land like Sarcosuchus did, but spent the majority of their time in water.
There are several species of Dakosaurus. Their fossils are found across the world from Britain to Europe, Russia, Mexico, and Argentina. If you’d like to see its teeth they’re on display in the Natural History Museum in London.
Dakosaurus most likely ate turtles, squid, and other small crocs. Experts think they may have been able to launch from the water to catch birds much like killer whales do today.
Desmatosuchus was a massive four-legged reptile from the Aetosaurs genus.
It was 15 feet long and lived 230 million years ago in the late Triassic era. This extinct giant crocodile ancestor was heavily armored with shoulder spikes. Its hind legs were longer than its front limbs which raised its tail end up, but the biggest difference? It was an herbivore!
Its name means “link crocodile” in ancient Greek, but this huge ferociously armored croc was an archosaur that ate plants. Its fossilized teeth indicate it wasn’t capable of killing prey.
Desmatosuchus had blunt teeth and a pig-like snout to root out soft underground vegetation. However, some experts theorize it may have taken insects such as bees, wasps, and termites much like a modern armadillo.
Its widespread fossils have been found in the Chinle Formation which takes in Nevada, Utah, western New Mexico, and northern Arizona.
Aegisuchus was a massive flat-headed extinct crocodile from the late Cretaceous era. Only partial fossils have been found in the Kem Kem formation of southeast Morocco, but they are enough to piece some information together about this gigantic beast.
Its name means ‘shield crocodile’ due to the shield-like shape of its skull. With space for a 2.44 cubic inch brain, this crocodile was possibly much smarter than other crocodilians.
Paleontologists estimate its head alone was 9.4 feet long with an overall length of up to 69 feet. However, this is challenged by other scientists suggesting 49 feet is more realistic. Whether it was 69 feet or 49 feet, the big-brained Aegisuchus was formidable and surely an apex predator of the late Cretaceous.
They were ambush predator carnivores that lay submerged in rivers with eyes on the top of their skulls like modern crocodiles. In the late Cretaceous period, northern Africa was subtropical and part of a freshwater system. This is where Aegisuchus lived and preyed on fish, turtles, snakes, and dinosaurs from the river’s edge.
Summary of 5 Massive Extinct Giant Crocodiles
Here’s a recap of the five incredible extinct crocodile species that we took a look at.
|Number||Crocodile Species||Size||Estimated Range Based on Fossils|
|1||Sarcosuchus||40 feet long, weighed up to 10 tons||Present-day Africa and South America’s river systems|
|2||Purussaurus||41 feet long, weighed up to 20,000 pounds||Present-day South America|
|3||Dakosaurus||15 feet, weighed up to 2,000 pounds||Britain to Europe, Russia, Mexico, and Argentina|
|4||Desmatosuchus||15 feet long||Chinle Formation, which takes in Nevada, Utah, western New Mexico, and northern Arizona|
|5||Aegisuchus||49-69 feet||Kem Kem formation of southeast Morocco|
That concludes our nightmare list of 5 extinct giant crocodiles.
Crocodiles are one of the most successful species to have lived. They lived before and alongside dinosaurs, survived a mass extinction event, and are still with us today. Whether you fear them or love them, you have to admit they are incredible animals.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.