This is a massive discovery, both literally and figuratively. Paleontologists in Tunisia have found the fossil remains of the world's largest sea-dwelling crocodile, a species that before now had be completely unknown.
The group, lead by Federico Fanti of the University of Bologna and supported by the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration, have named this new species Machimosaurus rex, or M. Rex for short. From the fossils they found, they have estimated that this prehistoric beast measured up to 30 feet long and weighed over 30 tons. The skull alone is five feet long. Their complete findings have been reported in the journal, Cretaceous Research.
"It's just big. It's almost the size of a bus," said Fanti to the Washington Post about the crocodile. "It definitely was at the top of the food chain at the time, at least in this particular locality."
The fossil was found just inches below the surface on the edge of the Sahara Desert in Tunisia.
While the sheer size of this crocodile is impressive, this discovery also rattles preconceived notions about mass extinctions during the Jurassic Period. While the group of crocodiles M. Rex belongs to were thought to have gone extinct 150 million years ago, these new findings show that M. Rex actually lived 130 million years ago.
Fanti said that while previous studies hypothesized a mass extinction of marine reptiles between the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, the discovery of M. Rex proves otherwise.
"That's leading us to consider the mass extinction theory is wrong and that we should better understand what's going on at the end of the Jurassic period," Fanti said.
M. Rex may be extinct, but there are still some monster crocs out there, just like the one Jeremy Wade came face-to-face with!