Weaker than crocodiles? A shocking fact about Earth’s 230-million-year-old apex predator

A recent study reveals that Saurosuchus, a distant relative of Late Triassic reptiles and modern crocodiles, had a weaker bite than previously believed and could not crush bones like later dinosaurs. Despite its large size, the bite force of Saurosuchus was on par with that of modern carnivores, but much weaker than its successors, such as Allosaurus and T. rex. Above is a skull and a life reconstruction of Saurosuchus. Credit: Jordan Bestwick, University of Birmingham

Computer simulations of apex predators show that they had different feeding behaviors from dinosaurs because they could not crunch bones.

The apex predators that roamed our planet 230 million years ago may have had a less powerful bite than scientists believed, and could not have crushed bone to eat their entire kills.

A new study published in The Anatomical registrationPaleontologists from the University of Birmingham have recreated the skull’s original anatomy. saurosuchus, A delay Triassic Reptiles are distant relatives of modern crocodiles. Saurosuchus It was considered an apex predator due to its size and diet, reaching 5-8 meters in length and weighing over 250 kg.

However, recent analysis of reptile skulls and comparisons with later well-known dinosaurs Allosaurus Despite similar skull strength, they found an earlier crocodilian relative Saurosuchus It had a much weaker bite than the dinosaurs that followed. Saurosuchus 1015-1885 Bite with a force of N, equivalent to modern crocodiles called gharials.


  • Allosaurus: 3,572 N
  • Saltwater crocodiles have a bite force of ~16,000 N
  • Dinosaur rex: 17,000-35,000 N

Dr. Jordan Bestwick, a vertebrate paleobiologist University of Birmingham And the article’s corresponding author said: „We found it Saurosuchus It actually had an incredibly weak bite for its size, and thus predated the animals in very different ways compared to the later evolved dinosaurs. In fact, despite being one of the largest lizards and an apex predator, The Saurosuchus It had a bite comparable to the relatively meager bite of the gharial, and far less powerful than the fearsome crocodiles and alligators around today.

“You still would have liked to leave Saurosuchus Well alone, but since they can’t crush bones with their bites, they can only eat the soft fleshy parts of their kills.”

Reconstruction of the Saurosuchus skull

A step-by-step process of skull reconstruction. Credit: Jordan Bestwick, University of Birmingham

Careful eaters

Despite their relative size, Saurosuchus Careful diners used their back teeth to remove the flesh from their kills, the study suggests.

In contrast to later dinosaurs, feeding behavior Saurosuchus Probably due to a weak bite and a more rectangular skull. Also, the nose had thinner bones compared to earlier reptiles Allosaurus.

Dr Stephen Lautenslager, Associate Professor of Palaeontology at the University of Birmingham and senior author of the paper, said: ” Saurosuchus It must have been a fearsome reptile as long as it ate its prey, and we can see how the evolutionary details in the skulls of these massive apex predators necessitated significant differences in feeding behavior. Then came the dinosaurs Jurassic Time would have eaten most of their kills, Saurosuchus More complete carcasses may have been left behind, which would have also provided secondary food for carrion-eating animals.

Molly Fawcett, co-author of the paper, said: „It’s really surprising how similar the skulls of the top predators of the Triassic period (the period before the dinosaurs dominated) are compared to well-known carnivorous dinosaurs such as T. rex. However, unexpectedly the bite force of these Triassic predators was much higher than that of the post-Triassic dinosaurs. We found it weak.

Note: Molly J. Fawcett, Stephen Ladenchlager, Jordan Bestwick, and Richard J. Butler 2,023 J. Anatomical registration.
DOI: 10.1002/ar.25299

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