Renowned naturalist Sir Charles Darwin turns 200 this year, and although he may seem unrelated to the fossil of an ancient, bus-sized crocodile, it only proves that Darwin’s theories of evolution, are indeed, fact.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum has sunk its teeth into a 110-year-old replica skull of a “SuperCroc” fossil, an ancient creature whose skull measures 1.7 metres in length and counts 140 savage teeth.
The museum’s specimen puts modern crocs to shame.
The ‘Sarcosuchus’, or SuperCroc, skull has been brought into the museum as part of the Year of Darwin celebrations and an upcoming exhibit based on the theorizer’s ideas.
No other museum in Canada has such a specimen, which confirms one of Darwin’s theories, said Royal Tyrrell curator, Dr. Francois Therrien.
It gives an example predicted by Darwin of parallel evolution, “through adopting similar shapes by totally different animals in different parts of the world,” Dr. Therrien said, adding the gargantuan creature is not directly related to modern crocodiles.
SuperCroc is about twice the size of modern-day sea water reptiles, which normally measure close to five metres.
It is believed Sarcosuchus would’ve weighed eight metric tons, and was as long as the tyrannosaurus on display at the Tyrrell.
“The creature could have eaten dinosaurs, but it’s narrow snout shows it probably ate fish,” Dr. Therrien said, also mentioning the creature died out long before the dinosaurs did.
The original fossil was discovered in the ‘60’s in North Africa, where fish up to two metres in length flourished.
Unlike modern crocodiles, SuperCroc had a smooth back, not plated, and lived in estuaries (where fresh water meets the sea).
Dr. Therrien said a similar sized but separate species of giant crocodile once roamed parts of North America about 65 to 70 million years ago, around the time the dinosaurs died out.
“The Tyrrell is hosting a series of events to celebrate Darwin’s birth, including fossils such as this that prove evolution occurred,” said Dr. Therrien, who is studying the feeding behavior among extinct animals and plans to gather a great deal of information from this particular specimen.
“This is a big deal to get this,” he said.
The Royal Tyrrell is opening the exhibit “I think...”, named after a note left by Darwin, to commemorate not only his birth, but the 150th anniversary of his most acclaimed publication, On the Origin of Species.
In commemoration, the museum’s annual Speaker Series is dedicated to the legacy of Darwin, and the Tyrrell will bring in speakers on topics including Darwin’s life, work, evolution through natural selection, modern evolutionary biology and the social and cultural ramifications of evolutionary thought.
The speakers hail from universities and museums from across North America.
To catch a look at the gnarly fanged giant which is the SuperCroc, check out the Royal Tyrrell Museum when the Darwinian exhibit “I think...” opens May 16.