Fossil find pegs giant, bipedal reptile as a top predator 230 million years ago
© Jorge Gonzales
Before dinosaurs ruled what is now North America, the Carolina Butcher topped the predator charts.
A reconstruction of this newly identified species suggests that Carnufex carolinensis was 3 meters long and looked a lot like living crocodiles — except it walked on two legs, not four. Researchers led by North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences paleontologist Lindsay Zanno found its fossilized skull, spine and arm bones in 231-million-year-old rock deposits in central North Carolina.
C. carolinensis is one of the oldest and largest crocodile ancestors identified to date. Its size and stature also suggest that for a time, it was one of the top predators in the part of the supercontinent Pangaea that became North America, Zanno and colleagues write March 19 in Scientific Reports.