Massive Ancient Crocodile Lived Alongside Our Ancestors and Probably Ate Them

Posted on May 5, 2012

Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni Sketch


Christopher Brochu, associate professor of geoscience at University of Iowa, has discovered an ancient species of crocodile that was large enough to swallow humans. The crocodile lived between 2 and 4 million years ago in Kenya. It resembled the Nile crocodile, but was more massive. It took four men to lift the head of the fossilized crocodile.

Brochu says, "It's the largest known true crocodile. It may have exceeded 27 feet in length. By comparison, the largest recorded Nile crocodile was less than 21 feet, and most are much smaller."

Brochu also says, "It lived alongside our ancestors, and it probably ate them. We don't actually have fossil human remains with croc bites, but the crocs were bigger than today's crocodiles, and we were smaller, so there probably wasn't much biting involved."

Brochu says fossils of the ancient crocodile were discovered near important discoveries of human fossils. Humans during that period were only about four feet tall.

Brochu named the crocodile Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni after John Thorbjarnarson, famed crocodile expert and Brochu's colleague who died of malaria while in the field several years ago.

Brochu says, "He was a giant in the field, so it only made sense to name a giant after him. I certainly miss him, and I needed to honor him in some way. I couldn't not do it."

The research was reported in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Image: Christopher Brochu