IOWA CITY, Iowa, May 7 (UPI) -- An ancient crocodile big enough to swallow a human whole once thrived in East Africa, a University of Iowa researcher says.
"It's the largest known true crocodile," Christopher Brochu, a professor of geoscience, said. "It may have exceeded 27 feet in length. By comparison, the largest recorded Nile crocodile was less than 21 feet, and most are much smaller."
Resembling its living cousin the Nile crocodile, but much more massive, the species lived between 2 and 4 million years ago in Kenya, Brochu reported in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Fossils of the giant crocodile were found in areas of Kenya known for important human fossil discoveries, he said.
"It lived alongside our ancestors, and it probably ate them," Brochu said.
Crocodiles generally eat whatever they can swallow, he said, and humans of that time period would have stood no more than 4 feet tall.
"We don't actually have fossil human remains with croc bites, but the crocs were bigger than today's crocodiles, and we were smaller, so there probably wasn't much biting involved," he said.