One of the oldest and largest crocodilian species ever found has been discovered in North Carolina. This ancient crocodile is actually older than the dinosaurs and is considered by scientists to have been one of the top predators of its time. From the fossils gathered, it was approximately nine feet long and walked on its hind legs, unlike modern day crocodiles, whose legs are short and stout.
North Carolina was thought to be comprised of a lush rainforest with a humid, tropical environment that would have made for excellent living conditions for the crocodile. It is believed that around this time, some 230 million years ago, this particular region of land began to pull away from Pangea, the supercontinent.
The bones of this species were found a decade ago in a quarry, but have remained untouched at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science since then. Once the bones were actually taken out, measured and studied, it became clear that the discovery was not a typical find. This particular species of crocodile, or crocodylomorph, continues to raise intrigue researchers, who are curious as to what else may have existed in the days before the dinosaurs.
While most crocodilian relatives at that time were smaller, this particular one is believed by scientists to have ruled the jungle, so to speak. Because of its long body and the ability to walk on its hind legs, it could have been the fiercest animal of its day.
Not much is known about this particular crocodile’s hunting patterns. It is hard to tell whether it waited to attack its prey as modern crocodiles do through camouflage and patience, or if it would have behaved more like two-legged predators, such as T-Rex or Velociraptor.
In addition, while early dinosaurs were fighting for top predator status in their own regions, this crocodilian ancestor was clearly the top predator for its particular food chain; this unique find gives scientists a profile that had been previously unseen in this particular type of animal. In our society today, crocodiles are still regarded as fierce and feared predators, but not a species that would rank on the top of a food chain or rule over their neighboring animal species.
The Carnufex Carolinensis, or more commonly referred to as the “Carolina Butcher,” is believed to have met extinction when the Triassic period ended and more species of dinosaurs took over. As these larger, bulkier crocodiles fell before its bigger competitors, those that survived and lived to see another day have become its modern-day descendants, which can still be seen roaming the swamps and rivers of our world today.