Crocodylus anthropophagus

Name: Crocodylus anthropophagus ‭(‬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.
Diet: Carnivore.
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.

       Crocodylus anthropophagus is a species of extinct crocodile that is part of the same genus as some of today’s living crocodiles such as the Nile‭ (‬Crocodylus niloticus‭)‬,‭ ‬Siamese‭ (‬Crocodylus siamensis‭) ‬and American‭ (‬Crocodylus acutus‭) ‬crocodiles amongst some others.‭ ‬C.‭ ‬anthropophagus however lived in Africa during the Plio-Pleistocene era 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.

Further reading
- 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.


Random favourites