This Gigantic Lizard Looked Like a Fanged Salamander, and Hunted Like a Crocodile

Written by Lev Baker
Updated: October 18, 2022
© Timothy J. Bradley/
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Global warming? Climate change? Drastic alterations in sea levels? Researchers believe that our planet’s climate change rate is unlike anything seen since the PermianTriassic mass extinction. Commonly known as “the Great Dying,” the event occurred 250 million years ago and wiped out 80% of all life forms on earth. This loss of life changed the planet and reset earth’s biological diversity. The Anteosaurus was one of the many creatures that went extinct during this period, so let’s dive into what this creature looked like and how it behaved.

Meet the Salamander-Crocodile Hybrid Beast: Anteosaurus

3D rendering of Anteosaurus fighting another large reptile
Anteosaurus had several types of teeth, including massive canines and cheek teeth, designed to kill prey and rip flesh.

©Bluedwarf, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons – License

A giant lizard-like reptile, the Anteosaurus was one of a kind. The Anteosaurus was named after the mythical half-human half-giant son of the Greek god Poseidon, Antaeus. With their crocodile-shaped bodies, these semi-aquatic animals inhabited the temperate lands of South Africa along rivers, lakes, and ponds.

The first fossils of these creatures were found near Cape Town, South Africa, in 1921. A small, elongated skull, thought to have belonged to a baby Anteosaurus, was one of the first samples of the animal. The most significant fossil pieces of the Anteosaurus that have been discovered are on display in the Origins Centre at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

These beasts thrived during the Middle Permian period, the era between 260-270 million years ago, and eventually went extinct as the temperatures climbed higher and the water became acidic. The last living Anteosaurus known to walk the lands of South Africa was at the beginning of the late Permian period, 266 million years ago. Thus, the last time they were around was long before the dinosaurs existed, let alone humans!

What Did Anteosaurus Look Like?

Anteosaurus on land
Anteosaurus was a large reptile that looked like a salamander with crocodilian teeth.

©Timothy J. Bradley/

The Anteosaurus was a gigantic salamander-like creature with a large head, long body, and long pointy fangs. The Anteosaurus’s legs also resembled those of a crocodile; it also had a long muscular tail. Its head was so big and strong that it could headbutt other animals, which was one of its go-to hunting or defensive tactics. Although the Anteosaurus had short legs, it was likely quite agile. Unlike a crocodile, it could run fast and maneuver itself.

The Anteosaurus was one of the largest creatures of the middle Permian period. It was up to 20 feet long and six feet tall. It could weigh up to 1,300 pounds, or as much as a large polar bear! You definitely wouldn’t want to find one of these hurling towards you!

Let’s Talk About Those Scary Teeth!

The Anteosaurus had a ridiculous number of teeth. Whether you look at the cheeks, roof, or under the tongue, there were teeth everywhere! And not just one type of teeth, but several different types! The anterior teeth looked like ledges, and they had massive fang-like canines and cheek teeth as well. There was also a lining of teeth on the roof of this creature’s mouth, a unique feature of the Anteosaurus. So, to put it mildly, any animal that fell prey to the Anteosaurus would have had its flesh torn to pieces in mere minutes. Yikes!

The Anteosaurus’s teeth and large body give paleontologists the impression that the creature was at the top of the food chain during its time on earth and was a dominant predatory animal.

How Did Anteosaurus Hunt?

As mentioned earlier, the Anteosaurus’s fang-like teeth and muscular build point to it being a dominant predator. And since they had a crocodile-like semi-aquatic build, it is thought that they probably also fed like them. Crocodiles slowly approach their prey and pull their prey underwater.

However, scientists soon discovered that the Anteosaurus likely did not hunt like a crocodile. Their headbutting tactics, vast inner ear, and larger-than-average brain all point towards a quick and dirty hunting approach. This means that instead of taking its time, the Anteosaurus swiftly approached its prey, headbutted them, and bit them through the neck. They were an apex predator that was very effective at hunting.

The Anteosaurus was likely prey to no other creature as it was one of the largest animals of this time period. Therefore, the only other threats that it likely had to defend against were other Anteosauruses competing for mates or territory.

So, the Anteosaurus was an untouchable predator of the Middle Permian Era, undoubtedly feared by all inferior creatures. Strolling around like they owned the place, the Anteosaurus was never keen on sharing mates or their territory. So, undeniably, you could call the Anteosaurus the King of Middle Permian South Africa!

A Relative of the Crocodile?

The same elongated tail? A scaly reptile? Small legs holding up its large body? The crocodile and Anteosaurus must share some common ancestors. In fact, previously, scientists even believed that the creature might be a direct ancestor to the present-day crocodile. However, DNA analysis in the past couple of years has revealed the two creatures only belong to the same phylum i.e., reptiles, and nothing more. Other Middle Permian species such as the Titanognathus, Tapinocaninus, and Titanophoneus, were much more related to the Anteosaurus than the crocodile. Unfortunately, all three of these animals went extinct during the Great Dying.

To Sum Up

Without a doubt, the Anteosaurus was one of the largest, most unique creatures of its time. A definite tragedy at the hands of the Great Dying. The sad reality remains that even today, almost 15,000 amazing creatures in various ecosystems are currently on the verge of extinction. Thus, this era of the mass wipe-out, which led to the disappearance of the Anteosaurus, should serve as an example for the human civilization of today to take climate change more seriously and prevent such drastic events from happening in the future.

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About the Author

I have been a freelance writer for the past 2 years. My two biggest loves in the world are music and animals. I have even gone on to start my own personal blog called Frontman Philosophy. I have a huge love of animals and I love building my knowledge of animals through research. I love sea creatures in particular, my favorite being the octopus because of their intelligence, and I mean, come on, what's not to love! I have a rescue boxer named Dante who is the friendliest pup a man could ask for.

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