Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni
‭(‬Thorbjarnarson’s crocodile‭)

Name: Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni ‭(‬Thorbjarnarson’s crocodile‭)‬.
Phonetic: Kroc-oh-dil-us for-b-yar-nar-son-e.
Named By: Christopher A.‭ ‬Brochu‭ & ‬Glenn W.‭ ‬Storrs‭ ‬-‭ ‬2012.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Reptilia,‭ ‬Crocodylomorpha,‭ ‬Crocodylia,‭ ‬Crocodylidae,‭ ‬Crocodylinae,‭ ‬Crocodylus.
Species: C.‭ ‬thorbjarnarsoni‭.
Diet: Carnivore.
Size: Estimated between‭ ‬7.5‭ ‬to‭ ‬8‭ ‬meters long.
Known locations: Kenya,‭ ‬Turkana Basin‭ ‬-‭ ‬Koobi Fora Formation‭ & ‬Nachukui Formation.
Time period: Zanclean of the Pliocene through to Early Gelasian of the Pleistocene.
Fossil representation: Several skulls as well as lower jaws.

       For lack of a better term Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni was big,‭ ‬bigger than today’s largest crocodiles including Crocodylus niloticus‭ (‬Nile crocodile‭) ‬and even Crocodylus porosus‭ (‬salt water crocodile‭)‬.‭ ‬Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni is also considered to be slightly bigger than Crocodylus anthropophagus,‭ ‬a species named two years earlier that is considered to‭ ‬possibly‭ ‬be closely‭ ‬related to C.‭ ‬thorbjarnarsoni.‭ ‬C.‭ ‬thorbjarnarsoni shared a similar nasal arrangement with C.‭ ‬anthrophagous in that the nasals faced slightly forward.‭ ‬C.‭ ‬thorbjarnarsoni also had ridges along the squamosal bones at the back of the skull that were similar to but different from the crests of C.‭ ‬anthrophagous.‭ ‬C.‭ ‬thorbjarnarsoni is also noted for having a broad snout.
       Because of its large size,‭ ‬C.‭ ‬thorbjarnarsoni was undoubtedly an apex predator of its ecosystem that probably preying upon the large mammalian fauna of the time,‭ ‬hunting behaviour that is analogous to the present day C.‭ ‬niloticus.‭ ‬However early hominids‭ (‬the ancestors of people today‭) ‬are also known from the same locations as C.‭ ‬thorbjarnarsoni,‭ ‬something that has led to grisly speculation that some hominids may have fallen victim to C.‭ ‬thorbjarnarsoni.‭ ‬Although direct evidence for this is currently lacking,‭ ‬the smaller C.‭ ‬niloticus is known to attack and eat modern humans that are much larger than their hominid ancestors.‭ ‬Additionally the related C.‭ ‬anthropophagus is regarded as the culprit for the tooth marks found on hominid fossils near where it was found.‭ ‬You also need to consider that crocodiles can digest bones as well as flesh by increasing the production of stomach acids,‭ ‬so it’s a realistic expectation that once a large crocodile like C.‭ ‬thorbjarnarsoni had finished fully digesting its meal,‭ ‬there would be nothing left for a palaeontologist to find a few million years later.

       Although C.‭ ‬thorbjarnarsoni is regarded as quite possibly being the largest species in the Crocodylus genus,‭ ‬it was not the largest crocodile.‭ ‬Back in the Cretaceous another African genus of crocodile called Sarcosuchus is estimated to have been eleven and twelve meters long,‭ ‬while another called Stomatosuchus is estimated to have been up ten meters long.‭ ‬Both of these genera likely paled in comparison to an even bigger crocodile from the Miocene of South America called Purussaurus which is estimated between eleven and thirteen meters long.
       Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni translates to English as Thorbjarnarson’s crocodile.‭ ‬This in honour of John Bjorn Thorbjarnarson,‭ ‬a conservationist particularly noted for his work with crocodiles.

How Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni compares with other giant crocodiles
Name Time/Location Size (meters)
Deinosuchus‭ (‬alligator-like crocodile‭). Cretaceous/USA. 10-12
Gryposuchus‭ (‬gharial-like crocodile‭). Miocene/S.‭ ‬America. 10
Mourasuchus‭ (‬alligator-like crocodile‭). Miocene/Peru. 12
Purussaurus‭ (‬caiman-like crocodile‭). Miocene/S.‭ ‬America. 11-13
Rhamphosuchus‭ (‬gharial-like crocodile‭). Miocene/India‭. 8-11
Sarcosuchus‭ (‬crocodile‭). Cretaceous/Africa. 11-12
Smilosuchus‭ (‬phytosaur *not a croc‭). Triassic/USA. 12
Stomatosuchus‭ (‬crocodile‭). Cretaceous/Egypt. 10
3 of todays largest living crocs below
Alligator mississippiensis‭ (‬American alligator‭). Present/S. E. USA. 3.4‭ ‬average‭ ‬- up to almost‭ ‬6.
Crocodylus niloticus‭ (‬Nile crocodile‭). Present/Africa. Average up to‭ ‬5,‭ ‬largest up to 6.45.
Crocodylus porosus‭ (‬Salt water crocodile‭). Present/India, S. E. Asia, N. Australia. Average 4-5.5, largest recorded 6-6.6, possibly slightly bigger.

Further reading
A giant crocodile from the Plio-Pleistocene of Kenya, the phylogenetic relationships of Neogene African crocodylines, and the antiquity of Crocodylus in Africa. - Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 32 (3): 587. - C. A. Brochu & G. W. Storrs - 2012.


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