A massive prehistoric crocodile roamed around Queensland, Australia, a few million years ago. Since the skull measured about 65 centimeters long (2.1 feet), researchers were able to estimate that the entire length of its body was more than 5 meters (16.4 feet). Based on its giant size, it would have been a top predator during its time and could have easily preyed upon large marsupials.
The newly discovered species has been called Paludirex vincenti – “Paludirex” meaning “swamp king” in Latin and “vincenti” in honor of Geoff Vincent who found the fossilized skull.
The fossil was unearthed close to the town of Chinchilla back in the 1980s and it was researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) who identified the new species of prehistoric crocodile. In fact, the skull was displayed at the Queensland Museum for numerous years prior to being donated to the Chinchilla Museum in 2011. (A picture of some of the skull bones can be seen here.)
Jorgo Ristevski, who is a PhD candidate from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences, noted, “The largest crocodylian today is the Indo-Pacific crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, which grows to about the same size. But Paludirex had a broader, more heavy-set skull so it would’ve resembled an Indo-Pacific crocodile on steroids.”
“The waterways of the Darling Downs would once have been a very dangerous place because of it,” Mr. Ristevski stated in regards to where the Paludirex vincenti would have lived.
As a matter of fact, according to Mr. Ristevski’s supervisor, Dr. Steve Salisbury, there were numerous species of prehistoric crocodylians that lived in Australia millions of years ago. “Crocs have been an important component of Australia’s fauna for millions of years,” he explained, adding, “But the two species we have today — Crocodylus porosus and Crocodylus johnstoni — are only recent arrivals, and were not part of the endemic croc fauna that existed here from about 55 million years ago.”
It’s still unclear what exactly caused the Paludirex vincenti to go extinct but it may have been a result of deadly competitions with the Crocodylus porosus species. The other option is that “it went extinct as the climate dried, and the river systems it once inhabited contracted — we’re currently investigating both scenarios,” as explained by Dr. Salisbury.
The study was published in the journal PeerJ where it can be read in full.