The sarcosuchus imperator ("flesh crocodile emperor") is a giant, very extinct crocodile who, in life, was about 40 feet long and weighed as much as 10 tons. His fossils alone weigh 20 tons. He had foot-long armor plates, eyes on top of his head in order to better see prey swimming above him, and jaws nearly five feet in length lined with sharp, ripping teeth. He has been in the news for a few months now, because paleontologist Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago led a crew to the Sahara to investigate the crocodile in August 2001. This is the crocodile you might've been seeing ads about, the ones that say, "He didn't walk among the dinosaurs. He ate them." A nice, catchy, TV advertising campaign, of course, but pretty close to the truth. This crocodile, whose place in the crocodilian family tree is on a branch of super-crocodiles who are entirely extinct (today, only the mid-size version of crocodiles survive), lived during the Cretaceous, the latter third of the Mesozoic, when giant lizards and then dinosaurs ruled the Earth. Known specimens date from approximately 110 million years ago.
The species was originally discovered and described by a French paleontologist named Albert-Felix de Lapparent in 1966. For more information, see the December 2001issue of National Geographic.