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Temporal range: Miocene
Purussaurus BW.jpg
Life restoration of Purussaurus brasiliensis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Superorder: Crocodylomorpha
Order: Crocodilia
Family: Alligatoridae
Subfamily: Caimaninae
Genus: Purussaurus
Rodrigues, 1892
  • Purussaurus brasiliensis (type species) Barbosa-Rodrigues, 1892
  • Purussaurus neivensis Mook, 1941
  • Purussaurus mirandai Aguilera et al., 2006
  • Dinosuchus neivensis Langston, 1965

Purussaurus is an extinct genus of giant caiman that lived in South America during the Miocene epoch, 8 million years ago. It is known from skull material found in the Brazilian, Colombian and Peruvian Amazonia, and northern Venezuela. The estimated skull length for one large individual of the type species P. brasiliensis is 1,400 millimetres (55 in).[1] Paleontologists estimate that P. brasiliensis may have measured around 11 to 13 metres (36 to 43 ft) in length,[2] which means that Purussaurus is one of the largest known crocodyliformes ever to have existed. Two other extinct crocodyliforms, Sarcosuchus and Deinosuchus, have similar proportions, but both are geologically much older, dating from the Early and Late Cretaceous, respectively, and another from the Miocene of India, Rhamphosuchus, is estimated to be slightly smaller, though assumed to have been proportioned like a gharial. During the summer of 2005, a Franco-Peruvian expedition (the Fitzcarrald expedition) found new fossils of Purussaurus in the Peruvian Amazon (600 km from Lima).[citation needed]

Analysis of a biomechanical model of the skull of Purussaurus has indicated that it would have been capable of performing the "death roll" maneuver used by extant crocodilians to subdue and dismember their prey.[3][4]


Scale diagram showing the size of P. brasiliensis (red)

Brazilian P. brasiliensis is associated with sharks, rays, freshwater teleosts, lungfish, turtles including Stupendemys, crocodilians including Charactosuchus, Gryposuchus, and Mourasuchus, Anhinga birds, and mammals including sloths, bats, rodents, the primate Stirtonia, and river dolphins. River, floodplain, and lake environments were present.[2] Marine and freshwater fish, turtles, crocodilians, and terrestrial and aquatic mammals are associated with Venezuelan P. mirandai. Its environment is described as tropical and coastal. The earlier Colombian P. neivensis lived alongside a massive variety of fauna, including astrapotheres like Granastrapotherium and Xenastrapotherium, the early species of Mourasuchus and Gryposuchus, and the terrestrial crocodyliform Langstonia. This fauna dates from 13 million years ago, in the Laventan stage of the Late Miocene. [1]


  1. ^ a b Aguilera, O. A., Riff, D., and Bocquentin-Villanueva, J. (2006). "A new giant Purussaurus (Crocodyliformes, Alligatoridae) from the Upper Miocene Urumaco Formation, Venezuela." Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 4(3): 221–232.
  2. ^ a b Bocqentin, J., and Melo, J. (2006). "Stupendemys souzai sp. nov. (Pleurodira, Podocnemididae) from the Miocene–Pliocene of the Solimões Formation, Brazil." Revista Brasileira de Paleontologia 9(2): 187–192.
  3. ^ Choi, C. Q. (2014-05-04). "Spinning Slayers: Giant Crocs Used 'Death Rolls' to Kill Dinosaurs". LiveScience.com. Purch. Archived from the original on 2014-05-06. Retrieved 2014-05-06. 
  4. ^ Blanco, R. E.; Jones, W. W.; Villamil, J. N. (2014-04-16). "The 'death roll' of giant fossil crocodyliforms (Crocodylomorpha: Neosuchia): Allometric and skull strength analysis". Historical Biology: 1. doi:10.1080/08912963.2014.893300.  edit
  • Rodrigues, J.B. 1892. "Les reptiles fossils de la Vallée de L’Amazone". Vellosia, Contribuições do Museu Botânico do Amazonas 2:41-60.
  • Langston, W. 1965. "Fossil crocodilians from Colombia and the Cenozoic history of the Crocodilia in South America". University of California Publications in Geological Sciences 52:1-169.

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