Crocodylus anthropophagus (man-eating crocodile)

We often hear about man-eating crocodiles, but Crocodylus anthropophagus gets its name from the fact that it was a predator of extinct hominids in Tanzania around 1.8 million years ago. This discovery points to greater diversity in African fossil crocodiles than previously thought.

The type material of Crocodylus anthropophagus is at the National Natural History Museum in Arusha, Tanzania. Other referred material is in the Natural History Museum, London, and other museums in the USA and Cuba.

Species detail

  • Crocodylus niloticus
    Taxonomy

    Crocodylus anthropophagus is known from incomplete fossils. Find out what we know about its appearance and its relatives.

  • Homo habilis
    Distribution

    Crocodylus anthropophagus lived in fresh water swamps in northern Tanzania almost 2 million years ago. Find out more.

  • Paranthropus (Australopithecus) boisei
    Behaviour and biology

    Crocodylus anthropophagus lived alongside early humans and probably had a similar biology to living African crocodiles.

Images

Voay robustus

Voay robustus, the extinct crocodile of Madagascar, is similar in appearance to Crocodylus anthropophagus.

© Ghedoghedo
Paranthropus (Australopithecus) boisei

The crocodile Crocodylus anthropophagus lived alongside small hominids such as Paranthropus (Australopithecus) boisei and Homo habilis. Fossil bones of at least 2 hominid individuals bear tooth marks characteristic of crocodile feeding. In both examples, each hominid lost its left foot in the encounter.

© Gunnar Ries Amphibol, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Homo habilis

This crocodile lived alongside the early humans Homo habilis and Paranthropus (Australopithecus) boisei.

© Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Crocodylus niloticus

Crocodylus niloticus, the living Nile crocodile, may be closely related to Crocodylus anthropophagus.

© Hans Hillewaert, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
About the author
Lorna Steel
Dr Lorna Steel

Curator, Palaeontology Vertebrates Curation Group.

A word from the author

"You can’t improve on Crocodylus anthropophagus as a species name - it does what it says on the tin!"

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References

Brochu, CA, Njau, J, Blumenschine, R J  and Densmore, L D (2010) A new horned crocodile from the Plio-Pleistocene hominid sites at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. PLoS ONE 5 (2):e9333. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009333