(Human eating crocodile).
Phonetic: Croc-oh-dil-us an-fro-po-fag-us.
Named By: Christopher A. Brochu, Jackson Njau, Robert J. Blumenschine and Llewellyn D. Densmore - 2010.
Classification: Chordata, Reptilia, Crocodylomorpha, Crocodylia, Crocodylidae, Crocodylinae.
Species: C. anthropophagus (type).
Size: Uncertain but estimated between 7 and 7.5 meters long.
Known locations: Tanzania - Olduvai Gorge.
Time period: Late Gelasian of the Pleistocene.
Fossil representation: Partial skull and post cranial remains.
anthropophagus is a species of extinct crocodile
that is part
same genus as some of today’s living crocodiles such as the Nile
(Crocodylus niloticus), Siamese (Crocodylus
American (Crocodylus acutus) crocodiles amongst
some others. C.
anthropophagus however lived in Africa during the
when early hominids like Homo habilis and Paranthropus
boisei lived in
the area. Additionally some hominid fossils have been found with
tooth marks that seem to have been left by crocodiles, something
which led to the creation of the species name ‘anthropophagus’
which literally translated to English means ‘human eating’.
Although the remains of Crocodylus anthropophagus are very partial and incomplete, comparison to living crocs has led to size estimates approaching seven and a half meters long. If correct this would make C. anthropophagus slightly bigger than the largest recorded saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus), which are considered to be the largest living species of crocodile today. This has also led to suggestion that the tooth marks on hominid remains were left by juveniles as such large crocodiles would probably leave nothing of early hominids (which were much smaller than modern humans) for palaeontologists to later find. Despite this large size however, C. anthropophagus would have been puny when compared to truly giant crocodiles like Purussaurus from the earlier Miocene, or even Sarcosuchus from the Cretaceous.
Although incomplete, the snout of C. anthropophagus seems to have been much deeper than other species of Crocodylus such as the Nile Crocodile (C. niloticus). This more robust skull would have been better able to withstand the stresses of holding onto more powerful prey, and likely also allowed for more powerful bite muscles. Including the fossil evidence of early hominid predation, a picture comes together where just like crocodiles today smaller juveniles of C. anthropophagus hunted and killed smaller less powerful prey, while the older, bigger and more powerful individuals killed larger and more powerful animals.
- A New Horned Crocodile from the Plio-Pleistocene Hominid Sites at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. - PLoS One 5(2). - C. A. Brochu, J. Njau, R. J. Blumenschine & L. D. Densmore - 2010.