The Tunisian end of Sahara desert hid the fossil of Machimosaurus rex, the largest ancestor of crocodiles scientists have ever set eyes on. The giant predator is described to have been over 30 feet in length. Moreover, Machimosaurus rex would have weighed well over three tons.
Imagine the force of the largest marine predator to have lived in the prehistoric ocean separating Africa from Europe approximately 130 million years ago. The Tunisian end of Sahara desert hid the fossil of Machimosaurus rex for an estimated 130 million years. However, Federico Fanti with the University of Bologna (Italy) and his team dug up the remnants of the giant marine predator from a rocky layer of the Sahara desert in Tunisia. Their research was supported by the National Geographic Society.
Tunisia and the Sahara desert haven’t been the place-to-go to for unearthing spectacular fossils. Nonetheless, the unearthing of the skull and a few other skeletal remnants of Machimosaurus rex have definitely put the spot on paleontologists’ maps. The giant marine predator is described in a paper published in the Cretaceous Research journal.
The fossilized remains of Machimosaurus rex helped the paleontology team recreate the image of a fierce ancestor of the crocodiles today. Although Machimosaurus rex isn’t directly related to modern crocodiles, it shares lineage with modern species. One thing is striking about the newly described marine predator. Machimosaurus rex spent most of its life fully submerged in the ocean, perhaps rarely stepping on land.
The few well preserved remains of this specimen have just opened paleontologists’ appetite to search for a new, perhaps more complete skeleton. Based on the sizes of the fossilized remnants and data on close relatives of Machimosaurus rex, Federico Fanti estimated that the giant marine predator would have reached a maximum of 31 feet in length.
Other relatives of Machimosaurus rex, which lived at later times and spent their lives in freshwater would have reached even more astonishing lengths. Yet, as far as the ocean is concerned, Machimosaurus rex was the largest member of the crocodile family tree to dwell in this environment.
The skull of Machimosaurus rex, completed with teeth suggests that the crocodiles’ ancestor had a powerful bite. With a skull measuring 5.5 feet in length and rounded, short and massive teeth, Machimosaurus rex would have preyed on a varied menu.
The Tunisian end of the Sahara desert where the fossilized remnants were found was a lagoon during the Cretaceous. As such, turtles and fish dwelling here would have been a hearty meal for Machimosaurus rex.
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