Friday, October 2, 2015

Sarcosuchus: Pharaoh of the Crocodiles

Another frigid morning! I can't believe that October is here already. This month year has flown so fast! I've literally started singing Christmas songs already and I'll probably start watching Christmas movies very soon. (I start early because it takes me literally three months to watch all the Christmas movies I have and the ones I get on Netflix.) This week's topic isn't fall-related, but next week's will be. How exciting!

Days Till:
It is: 10 days till Colombus Day
It is: 29 days till Harvest Day
It is: 54 days till The Good Dinosaur's release

In the Spotlight:
I found several cool TV spots for The Good Dinosaur to share this week, so please enjoy!

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
Contrary to popular belief, dinosaurs weren't always the rulers of their domain! (Wikimedia Commons)
Dinosaurs are often thought of as being the terrors of the world they inhabited, and indeed, the pre-Flood world's single supercontinent – Rodinia – was infested with them. But dinosaurs weren't the only danger of the antediluvian world – swimming in the lakes, ponds and rivers of this ancient world were crocodilians, many a lot like the ones we have today. But there was one crocodilian that dwarfed them all: Sarcosuchus imperator, also known as SuperCroc! In life, it must have been an impressive beast...a beast so big, it didn't merely coexist with dinosaurs, it ate them!

Why are you just standing there waving, dude? Run! (Wikimedia Commons)
The largest reptile alive today, the saltwater crocodile, grows up to 23 feet long and weighs a maximum of around 2,200 pounds. This is nothing compared to the mighty SuperCroc, which fossils prove could grow over 40 feet long. Its weight? Eight to nine tons*. This was a croc that even the Crocodile Hunter (R.I.P Steve Irwin) and Crocodile Dundee might have done best to avoid! SuperCroc's scientific name, Sarcosuchus imperator even means “flesh crocodile emperor”.

Scientists are as of yet undecided as to what the largest crocodilian was. (Wikimedia Commons)
* There is debate among paleontologists as to what the largest species of crocodile was, as there are several candidates. One is the North American Deinosuchus, an alligator-like crocodilian, another Purrasaurus (not to be confused with the Triassic phytosaur Parasuchus) which was a giant caiman, and of course, Sarcosuchus. Based on fragmentary fossil remains, we can't be sure which was the largest, but evidence suggests that all three species were between 33 and 40 feet in length.

Sarcosuchus shared many similarities to its modern cousins, such as this crocodile. (Wikimedia Commons)

Despite being far larger than any modern crocodile, Sarcosuchus nevertheless shared several survival traits with them; many of these For traits help the animals live semi-aquatic lives. For example, Sarcosuchus and modern crocs have their eyes and nostrils placed at the tops of their heads (actually, Sarcosuchus' eyes are slightly elevated above the rest of the skull). This means that they can remain these predators can remain almost completely submerged in water and still see and smell. We don't know how good Sarcosuchus' senses of sight, hearing and smell were, but in modern crocodiles, these senses are excellent. They even are relatively intelligent creatures. It's more than likely Sarcosuchus possessed these attributes as well. Sarcosuchus' skull alone was over six feet long and every inch of it was lined with sharp teeth. There were over 100 teeth in its mouth. SuperCroc's back was covered in rows of overlapping shield-like armor plating called scutes. These “shields” could be over a foot long and were situated kind of like roofing tiles. One gazing at the skull of Sarcosuchus wouldn't fail to notice the large bulge at the end of its six-foot snout. This bulge is known as a bulla and is similar to the ones seen in modern gharials, except its hollow and bowl-shaped. Scientists are unsure of its use, but many believe it was for making bizarre calls or improving its sense of smell.

Sarcosuchus was the true king of the waterways it inhabited. (Wikimedia Commons)
The fossils of Sarcosuchus have been uncovered in South America and more commonly in Northern Africa. The regions bearing fossils of this beast are deserts now, but the fossils in these rocks represent a long-gone ecosystem that once existed in the pre-Flood world. Fossilized plants and animals of North Africa reveal the land was once a vibrant, tropical swamp-like environment with plentiful plant life for herbivorous dinosaurs to chow on, and lots of large fish in the waters. This was the home of Sarcosuchus.

Pre-Flood Egypt might have looked a lot like the modern day Everglades. (Wikimedia Commons)
This brings us to another important question: what did SuperCroc eat? Well, like its modern counterparts, Sarcosuchus was a carnivore, and there was plenty of prey in pre-Flood North Africa. You might imagine that fish were too small to sustain a nine-ton crocodile, but the fish SuperCroc lived with weren't all minnow-sized. Fossils reveal nine-foot lungfish, giant six-foot coelocanths and 20-foot sawfish swam in the waters the giant crocodile called home. Though many parallells are drawn between Sarcosuchus and the fish-eating gharial, the two have a different tooth design – while the gharial has interlocking teeth (as do most crocodiles) to capture fish, Sarcosuchus' teeth do not interlock. Interestingly, its discoverers compared this crocodile's teeth to railroad spikes. Sarcosuchus was certainly large enough to prey on something other than fish; it was probably a dinosaur killer. What dinosaurs were on this reptile's menu? 30-foot ornithopods like Ouranosaurus and Lurdusaurus and even juvenile long-necked sauropods such as Nigersaurus might have been prey for Sarcosuchus.

Like a modern croc, Sarcosuchus would lunge from the water's edge and grab prey, in this case an Ouranosaurus, with its long jaws. (Wikimedia Commons)
Just like the modern crocodile, Sarcosuchus was an ambush predator. It lied in wait near the water's edge for prey to approach, with only its eyes and nostrils above the water. Then, when prey like an ornithopod got close, it would lunge out of the water and catch the hapless prey in its jaws, holding it in place with its 100+ teeth. Sarcosuchus didn't have a weak bite either. Recently scientists determined that SuperCroc could bite down with the force of nine tons! That's nastier than the bite of Tyrannosaurus, with its 3-ton bite by comparison. Unfortunately for this crocodile, it didn't have the water's edge all to itself, as SuperCroc often had to share the territory with semi-aquatic dinosaurs like the spinosaurs Suchomimus and the 20-ton Spinosaurus itself. Perhaps these animals occasionally fought each other over food or territory.

Who would win in a fight between Suchomimus and Sarcosuchus? (Raul Martin)

A creature like Sarcosuchus was certainly an awe-inspiring reptile. This is why some creation scientists have begun to notice many parallels between it and a creature mentioned in the book of Job in the Bible. In Job 41, God talks about a colossal creature called Leviathan. It's said to have terrified even the mightiest of men. Its jaws were lined with many teeth, its form was quite graceful and spent most of its time in the water. The Bible says its scales are so tough that they repel swords and spears. But what was very unique about this creature is that it could actually breathe fire and smoke. Just another ancient myth?

We may not know what Leviathan looked like, but it certainly didn't look like this monster that doesn't match the creature described in Job 41 at all!
Not in the slightest. Based on the context of the verse, we can see that God was speaking of a real animal. Some have pointed to the crocodile as the prime candidate for Leviathan; however, Leviathan clearly was not a crocodile (a modern one, anyway), because crocs not only are unable to breathe fire, but, with skill and determination, can be killed (Leviathan was described as being a creature that couldn't be killed by human weapons of the time). For years, creationists have scratched their heads, trying to find an extinct creature that fit Leviathan's description, suggesting anything from the aquatic Kronosaurus, which, unlike Leviathan, was unable to clamber onto land, to the terrestrial Tyrannosaurus rex, which wasn't in its element in the water like Leviathan was. However, many creation scientists feel that Sarcosuchus best fits the description of the biblical Leviathan. Remember the foot-long roof tile-like scales on its back? They certainly bring to mind the tough scales Leviathan is described to have. (“Its back has rows of shields tightly sealed together;” Job 41:15, NIV.) Sarcosuchus might even possess a fire-creating feature: its bulbous snout. Perhaps Sarcosuchus was capable of mixing chemicals in this bowl-shaped bulge to create streaming flames which it cast from its mouth; a similar ability is seen in the modern bombardier beetle which expels noxious chemicals that explode and burn at over 200 degrees. We may not know for sure whether or not Sarcosuchus was the Leviathan of the Bible, but it sure is the best candidate we have at the time of publishing.

Just imagine a blast of fire coming from this Sarcosuchus' mouth and it perfectly fits the description of Job 41's Leviathan! (SOURCE)

Sarcosuchus, SuperCroc...possibly the legendary Leviathan. This beast was certainly one of the most powerful and dangerous animals God made. The very same words used in Job 41:33-34 could also be used to describe Sarcosuchus: “Nothing on earth is its equal—a creature without fear. It looks down on all that are haughty; it is king over all that are proud.” What more can be said about Sarcosuchus imperator, pharaoh of the crocodiles!

Wouldn't it be awesome to come face to face with a living Sarcosuchus imperator...on the other hand, maybe not! (Planet Dinosaur)

Brooker, P., A New Candidate for Leviathan? Journal of Creation 19(2): 14–16, 2005; <>.

Disclaimer: Many (or in some cases all) of the photographs and images above are not mine. If you own one or more of them and would like them to be removed, politely let me know via my email address.

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