Scientifically named Sarcosuchus imperator, meaning "flesh crocodile emperor," the behemoth's jawbones stretched six feet in length and were lined with more than 100 teeth.
Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Vertebrate Paleobiology
On a dig for dinosaur bones in a remote area of the Sahara Desert in 1997, work had barley begun for a National Geographic exploration team when shovels struck what amounted to paleoscientific gold.
• Dr. Erickson's Home Page
• Dr. Erickson's Dinosaur Growth Page
• T.Rex the Trencherman
• Alligator's Bite Could Lift A Small Truck
• Department of Biological Sciences
Workers soon unearthed the remains of what turned out to be the largest member of the 200 million-year-old crocodile family ever discovered. Dubbed "SuperCroc," in life the behemoth was as big as a bus and probably weighed upwards of nine tons-as much a small whale.
Scientifically named Sarcosuchus imperator, meaning "flesh crocodile emperor," the behemoth's jawbones stretched six feet in length and were lined with more than 100 teeth. Such a prey-grabbing machine easily could have made the beast a serious foe for some dinosaurs-even for the most fiercesome ancestors of T. rex-during its hey-day 110 million years ago.
In 2000, FSU paleobiologist Greg Erickson—an expert in predicting the bite strengths of dinosaurs—collaborated with the producers of a National Geographic TV special on SuperCroc. Extrapolating from data he'd collected from studying the bite force of American alligators and other modern crocodiles, Erickson was able to describe the chomping power of Sarcosuchus in graphic terms.
He compared the squeeze of SuperCroc to that of being trapped under the full weight of a Mack truck. The FSU researcher calculated the beast's bite strength at 18,000 pounds-roughly eight-and-a-half times as powerful as the strongest alligator bite he'd ever recorded.
Dr. Erickson is an Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Vertebrate Paleobiology at FSU. Dr. Erickson is currently studying means to assess longevity and growth rates in extinct and living reptiles, crocodilian feeding biomechanics through bite-force experimentation, how changes in the biomechanical structure and properties of tooth enamel (strength, wear resistance, fracture toughness) have facilitated changes in feeding capacities during vertebrate evolution, and the lives of dinosaurs using trace fossil evidence.