Scientists believe that the Carnufex carolinensis roamed Earth before the dinosaurs did, and it likely ruled the Earth long before dinosaurs ever came along. The research was conducted at N.C. State and according to Lindsay Zanno, the lead paleontologist on the study pointed out that, “As one of the earliest and oldest crocodylomorphs, Carnufex was a far cry from living crocodiles. It was an agile, terrestrial predator that hunted on land, Carnufex predates the group that living crocodiles belong to.”
While the name of the creature might seem complex, the team points out that it loosely translates to “Carolina Butcher,” which is a fitting name for such a frightening creature. It wasn’t a very large species, but the team pointed out that it was likely the largest species that existed at the time. Even more interestingly, it differed harshly from what science knows crocodiles to be today.
It would have stood on two legs and would have walked the way dinosaurs eventually did. Scientists estimate that it likely lived about 230 million years ago in the North Carolina area and would have been about 1.5 meters tall and 3 meters long. They also believe that it would have required being in a warmer climate – thus explaining why the crocodile would have only appeared in the location that it was seen.
It’s teeth were incredibly sharp, and blade-like, which would have contributed to making this one of the most impactful species of the time. That being said, scientists do believe that the absence of dinosaurs is what led to the rise of this species in the first place. The team points out that the beginning of the Triassic period is what ended the Carnufex carolinensis’ run as top dog in the food chain. For a modern day comparison, members of the team point to a fox – as being a comparable species, in terms of what they would mean to a modern ecosystem. They’re small, and have sleek bodies that allow them to move quickly and take out smaller animals but ultimately, would have fallen victim to the larger species that became common in later years.