A prehistoric crocodile that once dominated the waterways of Australia has been documented by researchers.
Nicknamed the 'River Boss' the colossal beast lived between two and five million years ago and is believed to have been around seven metres long.
The research was carried out by academics at the University of Queensland who analysed a partial skull unearthed in the Darling Downs in the nineteenth century.
PhD candidate Jorgo Ristevski, from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences, led the research and named the terrifying croc Gunggamarandu maunala.
“This is one of the largest crocs to have ever inhabited Australia,” Mr Ristevski said.
“At the moment it’s difficult to estimate the exact overall size of Gunggamarandu since all we have is the back of the skull – but it was big.
“We estimate the skull would have been at least 80 centimetres long, and based on comparisons with living crocs, this indicates a total body length of around seven metres."
The size of the River Boss would put the reptile on par with largest Indo-Pacific salt water crocs (Crocodylus porosus) which are famed and feared for their size.
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Gunggamarandu was part of a group of crocodylians called tomistomines or ‘false gharials’ and until now there was no evidence they had inhabited Australia.
Mystery surrounded the identity of the skull for more than a century with graduate student Dr Steve Salisbury taking an interest in the 1990s.
“I knew it was unusual, and potentially very significant, but I didn’t have the time to study it in any detail,” Dr Salisbury said.
“The name of the new species honours the First Nations peoples of the Darling Downs area, incorporating words from the languages of the Barunggam and Waka Waka nations.
“The genus name, Gunggamarandu, means ‘river boss’, while the species name, maunala, means ‘hole head’.
“The latter is in reference to the large, hole-like openings located on top of the animal’s skull that served as a place for muscle attachment.”
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