Lesson 13.3: Science Connection

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Dinosaur Chomper

Dinosaurs ruled earth millions of years ago. Now scientists say they have found the fossils of a giant crocodile that might have scared even the biggest dinosaur.

Africa and Niger on the Globe

Africa and Niger on the globe

What did it take to terrify a dinosaur? How about a crocodile the size of a school bus! Scientists say such a crocodile lived in Africa about 110 million years ago. They nicknamed the giant beast “SuperCroc.” Its proper name is Sarcosuchus (pronounced SARK-oh-SOOK-us) imperator, meaning “flesh crocodile emperor.”

Scientists recently announced they had found the fossil remains of such a beast. The animal had 6-foot-long jaws lined with 100 razor-sharp teeth. Bony plates covered the deadly reptile's body. The fossils were discovered in October 2000 in Niger, a country in Africa.

“We had never seen anything like it,” said scientist Paul Sereno. “The snout and teeth were designed for grabbing prey—fish, turtles, and dinosaurs that [came] too close.” Sereno said Sarcosuchus was one of the largest crocodiles that ever lived.

Dino Hunter

Sereno and fellow scientists found the Sarcosuchus fossils in an area of an African desert called the Sahara. Although today the Sahara is dry and sandy, millions of years ago it was covered with jungles and big rivers.

SuperCroc probably hunted much as crocodiles do today, said the scientists. The ancient animal hid underwater, with just its eyes and snout showing. When a medium-sized dinosaur came to the water's edge, SuperCroc would lunge and snatch it up in its powerful jaws.

Map of Niger

“When this thing grew into an adult, it was really a monster,” Sereno said. “[SuperCroc] could have easily pulled down a good-sized dinosaur,” he said.

Word Wise

fossils:
The preserved remains, prints, or traces of plants or animals that lived long ago: The crocodile fossil was found in the desert.

snout:
The long protruding nose and jaws of certain animals, such as the pig: The pig used its snout to push around its food.

prey:
An animal hunted and eaten by another animal: The seal's prey is fish.

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Activity

After you have finished reading the main story, answer the following questions.

  1. When do scientists believe SuperCroc lived?
  2. Where were the latest SuperCroc fossils found?
  3. Which animals were prey for SuperCroc?

Data Hunt

How Big Was SuperCroc?

Measure classroom or school items and compare those measurements to SuperCroc's length. Use a tape measure or yardstick to find the length of these objects:

—your desk

—the teacher's desk

—the classroom chalkboard or dry-erase board

—the height of a student

—the height of a teacher

Find a large vacant space in your classroom or school. Using a tape measure or yardstick, measure SuperCroc's approximate length (35 to 40 feet) and mark it with chalk or masking tape.

Answer the following questions, using the measurements you made.

  1. Is there an object in the classroom that is about the same length as SuperCroc?
  2. About how many school desks would it take to equal the length of SuperCroc?
  3. The combined height of about how many of your classmates would equal the length of the ancient crocodile?