Scientists have just discovered a meat-eating monster that terrorized North America some 230 million years before the dinosaurs. Affectionately named the “Carolina Butcher”, this sharp-toothed creature looked like a huge crocodile, but it could walk on two legs!
The Carolina Butcher could have looked a human in the eye – it was 9 feet long and 5 feet tall. According to reports, the big reptile was not an aquatic ground-crawler like modern day crocs, but instead walked about on its two hind legs, and was an agile top predator. The Butcher hunted on land and feasted on armored reptiles and what mammals existed at the time. It had unusually long jaws full of teeth as sharp as knife blades and it was the largest of its kind, terrorizing the humid habitat of ancient North Carolina.
Paleontologists from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences found bones from the animal’s spine, leg and skull while excavating the Pekin Formation in Chatham County, NC. Researchers scanned the skull fragments using cutting edge imaging technology in order to piece together a virtual 3D puzzle of the hunter’s fearsome skull.
In coming up with a name for the creature, scientists took inspiration from the place where the bones were discovered and from the animal’s frightening appearance and sharp teeth. They named it Carnufex carolinesis, which translates to the catchy moniker Carolina Butcher. The Carolina Butcher is classified as a crocodylomorph – that is, belonging to the group of ancient species which included the ancestors of today’s crocodiles as well as today’s birds. The Butcher’s smaller cousins went on to evolve into modern crocs.
Modern humans can consider themselves lucky that today’s crocodiles stick to the ground by the water’s edge. The sight of the man-sized, sharp-toothed Carolina Butcher running upright after its prey would have been terrifying indeed!