Carolina Butcher: Massive Crocodile Ancestor Discovered In North Carolina

The Carolina Butcher is a long-lost and massive relative of the crocodile. The new species of reptile found in North Carolina is believed to predate dinosaurs. The Carnufex carolinensis, or the Carolina Butcher, walked on its hind legs and was nine feet long.

The crocodile ancestor’s bones were recently unearthed in an old quarry. The Carolina Butcher once lived in the warm and wet region of North Carolina, according to scientists reviewing the discovery of the upright croc. Although the bones of the Carolina Butcher were found almost 10 years ago, they sat untouched at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences until recently.

“When we got the bones out and prepared them, we found out that it was actually a really cool species. It was one of the oldest and largest members of crocodylomorph — the same group that crocodiles belong to — that we’ve ever seen. And that size was really surprising,” North Carolina State University Assistant Professor and Carolina Butcher lead researcher Lindsay Zanno said. “It was clearly a top predator. That’s a niche we didn’t know animals like this were filling.”

Crocodile ancestors and relatives were known to be lower on the all-important food chain and smaller in size, according to scientific researchers. Before the discovery of the Carolina Butcher, the relatives of crocodiles were all thought to be about as threatening and the same size as a fox. Due to its size and ability to walk upright, those studying the Carolina Butcher feel it was one of if not the “fiercest” predator of its time.

“Fossils from this time period are extremely important to scientists because they record the earliest appearance of crocodylomorphs and theropod dinosaurs, two groups that first evolved in the Triassic Period, yet managed to survive to the present day in the form of crocodiles and birds,” the North Carolina University professor added.

The Carolina Butcher discovery also notes the first time that a crocodile ancestor has been shown in the same realm as ferocious and massive early dinosaurs. When even larger and more deadly dinosaur predators converged upon the region during the Triassic Period, the Carolina Butcher could no longer compete for territory and food, and only the smaller crocodiles survived, scientific researchers believe.

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