SuperCroc gives bite to touring exhibition

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 12:00am

A giant prehistoric crocodile that counted dinosaurs among its prey has been resurrected in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The 12-metre, life-size clay and fibreglass replica is based on fossils discovered last year by a National Geographic team in the sub-Saharan desert in the Republic of Niger.

A month-long exhibition opened yesterday at the New World Centre, part of an Asian tour that will move on to Singapore and Taiwan.

First named Sarcosuchus imperator by French geologists in 1964, National Geographic explorer Dr Paul Sereno, who unearthed the fossils, dubbed it simply SuperCroc. Dr Sereno said although scientists had known for decades about the creature - which is believed to have lived 110 million years ago - little had been known about its anatomy, size and life span until now.

The University of Chicago palaeontologist and his team collected 18 tonnes of fossils, but it was an almost complete, 2.7-metre skull that enabled them to estimate its size - eight tonnes in weight and 12 metres long. It had an estimated life span of 50 to 60 years.

'The new material gives us a good look at those hyper-giants,' Dr Sereno said. 'The snout and teeth are designed for grabbing prey - fish, turtles and dinosaurs that strayed too close.'

Its jaws were studded with more than 100 teeth, including large bone-crushing incisors that enabled it 'to eat far meatier prey than fish', Dr Sereno said, making Africa's 'ancient river banks a dangerous place, even for a dinosaur'.

He believed the creatures became extinct because of climate change that dried up the sub-Sahara even before the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago.

The fossils are now being exhibited at the National Geographic museum in Washington and will be returned to the Niger Government later.

A two-hour programme on the discovery of the SuperCroc will air on the magazine's Asian channel at 9pm on December 9.