Suchomimus ("crocodile mimic") is a genus of large spinosaurid dinosaur with a crocodile-like mouth that lived between 121 - 112 million years ago, during the late Aptian stage of the Cretaceous period in Niger, Africa. The only species in the genus is Suchomimus tenerensis.
Unlike most giant theropods, Suchomimus had a very long, low snout and narrow jaws, formed by expansion of the premaxilla and the anterior ramus of the maxilla. The jaws have about 130 teeth, pointed but not very sharp and curving slightly backward, with fine serrations. The tip of the snout was enlarged and carried a "rosette" of longer teeth, seven per side on the top and about the same number in the lower jaw. Further back, there are 22 teeth per side on top and 31 per side on the bottom. The animal is reminiscent of crocodilians that eat mainly fish. Suchomimus also had blade-shaped extensions on its vertebrae which may have held up some kind of low flap, ridge, or sail of skin that was highest over its hips, lower and further back than that of Spinosaurus. Detailed study shows that the specimen of Suchomimus was a subadult about 36 feet (11 meters) in length. The overall impression is of a massive and powerful creature that ate fish and presumably other sorts of meat more than 100 million years ago when the Sahara was a lush, swampy habitat.
Discovery, naming, and taxonomyEdit
In 2007, paleontologist Paul Sereno and his team discovered fossils that represented about two-thirds of the skeleton of a huge carnivore in the Tegama Bed of the Elrhaz Formation in Niger. They named the
genus Suchomimus ("crocodile mimic"), after the shape of the animal's head, and the species tenerensis after the Tenere Desert where it was found. Suchomimus has been placed among the spinosaurids, a group of large predator-scavengers with jaws adapted for hunting fish and with less heavily built skulls when compare
d to other similarly-sized theropods, like the tyrannosaurids. The teeth were adapted for grasping rather than slicing and the roof of the mouth was more solid, allowing the spinosaurids to resist twisting forces exerted by prey. The rest of the body was not particularly adapted to the water. Apart from the back ridge, Suchomimus was very similar to the spinosaurid Baryonyx which also had strong forelimbs and a huge sickle-curved claw on its "thumb." And, as with Baryonyx, the claw was the first fossil part to b noticed by paleontologists. The holotype and only known individual of Suchomimus was considerably larger than that of Baryonyx, but the ages of the two individuals are not known. It may also be a synonym of Cristatusaurus.
Sereno et al. (1998) analyzed 45 factors to produce a cladogram that showed Suchomimus and Baryonyx to be distinct but closely related.