Two new species of giant dwarf crocodiles that lived during the Early and Middle Miocene have been identified from the fossilized skulls found in Kenya.
The two new crocodile species roamed Africa during the Miocene epoch between 18 and 15 million years ago.
Scientifically named Kinyang mabokoensis and Kinyang tchernovi, these giant dwarf crocodiles had short, deep snouts and large, conical teeth.
Their nostrils opened somewhat up and to the front, not straight upward as they do in modern crocodiles.
The animals spent most of their time in the forest, rather than in the water, waiting to ambush prey.
“They had what looked like this big grin that made them look really happy, but they would bite your face off if you gave them the chance,” said Professor Christopher Brochu, a paleontologist at the University of Iowa.
Kinyang mabokoensis and Kinyang tchernovi are related to dwarf crocodiles currently found in central and west Africa.
But these giant dwarf crocodiles were a lot bigger — hence, the name — than their modern relatives.
Dwarf crocodiles rarely exceed 1.2-1.5 m (4-5 feet) in length, but Kinyang mabokoensis and Kinyang tchernovi measured as long as 3.7 m (12 feet) and likely were among the fiercest threats to any animal they encountered.
“These were the biggest predators our ancestors faced,” Professor Brochu noted.
“They were opportunistic predators, just as crocodiles are today.”
“It would have been downright perilous for ancient humans to head down to the river for a drink.”
A paper describing the discovery was published in the journal Anatomical Record.
Christopher A. Brochu et al. Giant dwarf crocodiles from the Miocene of Kenya and crocodylid faunal dynamics in the Late Cenozoic of East Africa. Anatomical Record, published online June 8, 2022; doi: 10.1002/ar.25005
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