Suchomimus: The Giant Crocodile-Like Dinosaur from the Cretaceous Period

In the vast and diverse world of dinosaurs, the Suchomimus stands out as a truly unique creature. This dinosaur’s name means “crocodile mimic” and it hails from the Cretaceous period. The distinctive crocodile-like features of this creature, includes a long, narrow snout and a row of spines running down its back.

The Suchomimus is a testament to the incredible diversity and adaptability of dinosaurs. Its unique features, such as its crocodile-like snout and spines, suggest that it was a specialized predator that was adept at catching fish in the rivers and lakes of its time. This dinosaur’s unique adaptations and lifestyle offer a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Cretaceous period.

Suchomimus Key facts

Suchomimus pronunciationsoo-KOH-mee-mus
Meaning of nameCrocodile mimic
Type SpeciesSuchomimus tenerensis
When it Lived125.0 to 100.5 MYA
EpochAptian to Albian
Length31.0 to 36.0 ft
Height10.0 ft
Weight2.5 to 3.8 tons
MobilityMoved on two legs
First Discovery1997 by Paul Sereno
Location of first findNiger
First Described by1998 by Paul Sereno
HolotypeMNN GDF500

Suchomimus Origins, Taxonomy and Timeline

"Black and white sketch of Suchomimus, a theropod dinosaur, shown in a dynamic and roaring stance. The dinosaur has a crocodile-like snout filled with sharp teeth, and its body is muscular with strong legs and a long tail.

The name Suchomimus, meaning “crocodile mimic”, is a testament to this dinosaur’s unique physical characteristics. Its long, narrow snout and row of spines are reminiscent of a crocodile and this feature sets it apart from other theropods. It belongs to the Spinosauridae family, a group of dinosaurs known for their piscivorous diet and distinctive physical features. Suchomimus tenerensis is the only known species of this genus. 

This dinosaur hails from the Cretaceous period, specifically from the Aptian to early Albian stages. This was a time when dinosaurs were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates and the world was warm and largely free of ice.

Discovery & Fossil Evidence

The discovery of this spinosaurid dinosaur was a significant event in the field of paleontology. A team led by American paleontologist Paul Sereno unearthed the first fossil evidence of this creature in Niger, Africa in 1997. On December 4, 1997, David Varricchio discovered the initial find, a giant thumb claw. The following year, Sereno and his team described and named the species Suchomimus tenerensis. The name Suchomimus translates to “crocodile mimic”.

"Fossil skeleton of Suchomimus, a theropod dinosaur, displayed in a museum setting. The skeleton is positioned in a walking stance with its elongated snout and prominent claws clearly visible. The exhibit is well-lit, highlighting the intricate details of the bones, and is surrounded by modern glass panels and informational displays
Zissoudisctrucker, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The holotype specimen, cataloged as MNN GDF500, was found in the Tegama Beds of the Elrhaz Formation. It comprises a partial skeleton that lacks the skull but includes various other elements such as ribs, vertebrae, gastralia, chevrons, a scapula, a coracoid, a partial forelimb, most of the pelvis, and parts of a hindlimb. The spinal column was largely articulated, while the remainder consisted of disarticulated bones. Some of the skeletons had been exposed on the desert surface and had suffered erosion damage. 

Several other specimens have been assigned as paratypes, including a snout, a quadrate from the back of the skull, three dentaries, and more vertebrae. All of the original Suchomimus fossils are housed in the paleontological collection of the Musée National du Niger.

Suchomimus Size and Description

A more complete picture of this crocodile-like dinosaur can be pieced together by these numerous fossil finds. It had a narrow skull perched on a short neck, and its forelimbs were powerfully built, each bearing a giant claw on the thumb. A low dorsal sail, formed from the long neural spines of its vertebrae, ran along the midline of the dinosaur’s back. Like other spinosaurids, it likely had a diet of fish and small prey animals. Explore this picture in more detail down below.

Size and Weight of Type Species

Scale diagram illustrating the size of the theropod dinosaur Suchomimus tenerensis compared to a human figure. The dinosaur, shown in a light blue silhouette, is 11 meters in length, towering over the human figure standing at 1.8 meters.
PaleoGeekSquared, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This dinosaur was a large theropod that reached lengths of 9.5–11 meters (31–36 feet) and weighing between 2.5–3.8 metric tons (2.8–4.2 short tons). It is estimated to be a medium-sized spinosaurid–larger than the Baryonyx but smaller than the Spinosaurus. This size woul dhave made it a formidable predator of its time.

The Dinosaur in Detail

The Suchomimus is considered by some paleontologists to be an African species of the European spinosaurid Baryonyx. Therefore, it has been given the binomial name B. tenerensis. It might also be a junior synonym of the contemporaneous spinosaurid Cristatusaurus lapparenti, although the latter taxon is based on much more fragmentary remains. 

Its skeletal structure was unique and robust. Its neck was relatively short but well-muscled, and it had significantly extended neural spines. The furcula, or wishbone, was V-shaped, indicating a high and narrow trunk. The upper arm bone was very strongly built with robust upper corners and the upper leg bone was long and sturdy. This heavy arm musculature powered sizable hand claws, with the first digit being the largest.

The Suchomimus in its Natural Habitat and Environment

Digital reconstruction of two Suchomimus dinosaurs wading in a shallow water environment. The dinosaurs are depicted with elongated bodies, distinctive crocodile-like snouts, and robust limbs. They are shown engaging in fishing behavior, with one dinosaur actively catching a fish.
Fred Wierum, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This carnivorous dinosaur lived during the Cretaceous period in a time when the world was warm and largely free of ice. It likely inhabited areas near rivers and lakes where it could catch fish, its primary source of food. The long, narrow snout and sharp, conical teeth would have been well-suited to this aquatic environment. It lived in a fluvial environment of vast floodplains alongside many other dinosaurs, in addition to pterosaurs, crocodylomorphs, fish, turtles, and bivalves.

It lived in what is now Niger, Africa. The sediment layers of the formation have been interpreted as an inland habitat of extensive freshwater floodplains and fast-moving rivers. This tropical climate likely experienced seasonal dry periods. This environment was home to a variety of fauna including dinosaurs, pterosaurs, turtles, fish, hybodont sharks, and freshwater bivalves.

Interesting Points about Suchomimus

  1. The distinctive crocodile-like features characterize this dinosaur.
  2. This includes the long, narrow snout and a row of spines running down its back.
  3. It was a piscivore, meaning it primarily ate fish. It had sharp, conical teeth, perfect for catching slippery prey.
  4. It lived during the Cretaceous period, a time when dinosaurs were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

The remarkable Suchomimus found itself in a world shared with an intriguing ensemble of contemporaries. Among these African dinosaurs were the Ouranosaurus, Elrhazosaurus, and Nigersaurus, each unique in their own right and playing a part in the intricate dance of existence.

You can recognize the Ouranosaurus by its distinctive sail-like structure. It was an herbivore like the Nigersaurus, yet considerably larger. This size difference could have led to an interesting dynamic, with the Suchomimus possibly viewing the smaller Nigersaurus as an easier target for predation. The Elrhazosaurus, on the other hand, was a theropod like the Suchomimus. They might have been competitors, vying for the same prey, or perhaps they hunted different species, each finding their own niche in the ecosystem.

In this ancient world, the Suchomimus, with its elongated snout and large, curved claws, was a formidable presence. It coexisted with these contemporaries and navigated the challenges and opportunities of their shared environment. The interactions between these dinosaurs, whether they were competitors, predator and prey, or simply indifferent cohabitants, would have shaped their behaviors and adaptations and contributed to the rich and diverse tapestry of life in their time.

List of All Dinosaurs

We have created a list of all dinosaurs we have covered here, sorted across the seven main groups of dinosaurs. We also include information about their type of diet, (omnivore, herbivore or carnivore) and the time they lived.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the name mean?

The name means “crocodile mimic”, a reference to its distinctive crocodile-like features.

What did it eat?

This dinosaur was a piscivore, meaning it primarily ate fish.

First discovery of the Suchomimus

Paleontologist Paul Sereno discovered the first fossil in 1997.

How big was this dinosaur?

It was a large dinosaur, with estimates of its length ranging from 9.5 to 11 meters (31 to 36 feet).

What period did the Suchomimus live in?

It lived during the Cretaceous period, specifically from the Aptian to early Albian stages, around 125.0 to 100.5 million years ago.


The information in this article is based on various sources, drawing on scientific research, fossil evidence, and expert analysis. The aim is to provide a comprehensive and accurate overview of the Suchomimus. However, please be aware that new discoveries are constantly evolving our understanding of dinosaurs and their world.

Article last fact checked:Joey Arboleda, 06-13-2023

Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons