Name means: Red Crocodile
Range: Early Triassic (Anisian, 247-242 MYA) from South Africa
Size estimate: 12-16 ft length, 1-2 tons
Discovery: Robert Broom, 1905
Classification: reptilia, eureptilia, archosauromorpha, archosauriformes, erythrosuchidae
Erythrosuchus may have been the largest carnivore of its time. At maximum size it would have measured 16 feet from nose to tail, and 7 feet at the shoulders. The skull of a large one would have spanned 3 feet from nose to neck, rivaling even large carnivorous dinosaurs. This Erythrosuchus sculpture measures 8 feet long by 3 feet tall—only a quarter grown. Since its skull still measures 2 feet long, it may portray a young one with its proportionally larger head.
The body plans of erythrosuchids showed several innovations compared to their contemporaries. One of those innovations included a new ankle structure. This new type of ankle gave it a semi-erect posture like that of crocodiles. Despite its hulking appearance, it could get around more efficiently than many of the animals in its environment. As a result of its more upright posture, Erythrosuchus had to maintain its balance in new ways. Its inner ears acquired designs still found in crocodiles and birds that improved balance. Descendants of Erythrosuchus or a closely-related animal share some of these same features. Called archosaurs, this group of "ruling reptiles" includes crocodiles, dinosaurs, birds, and pterosaurs. Improved posture led to higher metabolism in these later groups. Better balance facilitated a whole host of new transportation methods. Crocodiles could navigate better in murky waters. Dinosaurs gained highly efficient running gaits and grew to larger sizes than any other land-living animal. Pterosaurs, birds, and certain small dinosaurs developed flight.