Let's turn the clock back millions of years to a time when crocodiles as long as buses lived in the Americas. A new study of Deinosuchus fossils reveals more details of what these mind-boggling predators looked like, and how they behaved.
Cossette and paleontologist Christopher Brochu at the University of Iowa studied cranial fossils and bite mark evidence to build a more complete picture of Deinosuchus, which was more closely related to alligators than crocodiles.
The paper helps to clarify three different known species of Deinosuchus: Deinosuchus hatcheri and Deinosuchus riograndensis (which ranged from Montana to northern Mexico) and Deinosuchus schwimmeri (from New Jersey to Mississippi).
While Deinosuchus' reputation as a fearsome predator is now sealed, the animal remains mysterious in many respects. The researchers highlighted two large holes on its snout that had an as-yet-unknown function.
"It was a strange animal," said Brochu. "It shows that crocodylians are not 'living fossils' that haven't changed since the age of dinosaurs. They've evolved just as dynamically as any other group."
If you think today's alligators are intimidating, you can at least take comfort in knowing Deinosuchus isn't prowling the waterways of the modern world. "Deinosuchus was a giant that must have terrorized dinosaurs that came to the water's edge to drink," said Cossette. But that's all in the past.