The Sarcosuchus watches a young long-necked sauropod amble up to the riverside, seeking a drink of cool water on this hot, muggy day. Just its eyes and nostrils poke up above the murky water, its massive nine-metre-long body floating in the gentle current. The sauropod is a juvenile but already approaching the length of a minibus. It will make a nice, substantial meal for the crocodile.
As the dinosaur approaches the water, the Sarcosuchus shifts its body to plant its hind feet in the soft mud of the riverbed. Despite its size, the movement makes barely a ripple on the surface of the slow-moving river. It is mere metres from the sauropod, and yet the young dinosaur remains oblivious. Just as the animal lowers its head to the water, a movement in the trees behind it makes the sauropod start.
A six-metre-long carnivorous dinosaur, Majungasaurus, erupts from the forest canopy, making a beeline for the young sauropod. The theropod is amazingly fast and the sauropod barely has time to lift its head before the Majungasaurus is upon it. The predator seizes the sauropod’s snout in its bone-crushing jaws and holds on grimly. Like a modern-day lion, these dinosaurs kill their prey through suffocation. The sauropod writhes and flails, but the Majungasaurus is powerful and agile.
During this encounter, the Sarcosuchus has slid, unseen, back into the water. For a moment it considers skulking away to find another prey item, but it is famished – perhaps it can steal the dying sauropod from the Majungasaurus. It can see the larger predator is using a lot of energy and tiring quickly.
The sauropod has collapsed to the riverbank, its snout still held tightly in the theropod’s jaws. Choosing its moment carefully, the Sarcosuchus erupts from the water and seizes hold of one of the sauropod’s legs. It tugs hard, trying to drag the carcass back into the water.
The Majungasaurus bellows and lets go of its prey, launching itself at the huge crocodile instead. It seizes hold of the Sarcosuchus’ forelimbs and bites down, hearing a bone crunch and snap. The crocodile feels blinding pain spread through its front leg, but it knows that letting go would mean losing this much-needed meal. It maintains its death grip and continues to haul itself backwards into the water.
The Majungasaurus tugs backwards on the sauropod carcass, but it is exhausted with the effort of killing its prey. Reluctantly, it lets go and watches the dead dinosaur’s body sink below the murky water of the river, clamped in the powerful jaws of the Sarcosuchus.