Ancient monster crocodile the biggest of its kind

An artist's impression of what the Machimosaurus rex would have looked like (Davide Bonadonna)
An artist's impression of what the Machimosaurus rex would have looked like (Davide Bonadonna)

The remains of a fearsome giant crocodile which roamed the oceans around 120 million years ago have been found in the Tunisian desert.

The new species, named Machimosaurus rex, has been described by palaeontologists for the first time in the journal Cretaceous Research.

Though only part of the prehistoric predator – which weighed up to 3 tonnes and grew to nearly 10 metres long – was found, experts had enough to decipher some key facts about it.

The 160cm-long skull and a number of other bones were discovered by Federico Fanti from the University of Bologna, Italy and his colleagues.

The creature is the largest known member of a lineage of crocodiles which spent most of their life in the sea, National Geographic reports.

Its "stocky, relatively short and rounded teeth" combined with the bite force would mean it was likely a general hunter which ate a wide variety of prey including marine turtles.

While scientists are waiting for a more complete skeleton to emerge, Dr Fanti estimates the creature was about 9.6 metres long based on the assumption it had similar proportions to its close relatives.

While distant freshwater relatives are bigger than the Machimosaurus rex, it is believed the animal was the biggest ocean-dwelling member of the crocodile family.

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