Anyone who’s ever seen a Steve Irwin show or any Australian nature documentary will know that saltwater crocodiles are big beasts.
Indeed, they’re the heaviest reptiles on the planet today, reaching up to 1,200 kg (2,645 lb) – around the same as two MINI cars, or two-thirds of a black London taxi! Reticulated pythons from southern Asia are the longest reptiles, just in case you were wondering; there are reports of one of these snakes reaching 10 m (32 ft 10 in)!
But as you’ll see in the new trailer (below) for the upcoming Guinness World Records 2020 – which counts a prodigious prehistoric croc among its many showstopper stars – size records can be relative…
Guinness World Records’ herpetology experts inform us that particularly large saltwater croc specimens can grow to 7 m (22 ft 11 in) long from snout to tail, but males of this species tend to average 4.9 m (16 ft).
Currently the largest crocodile in captivity is Cassius (c. 100 years old), who measures 5.48 m (17 ft 11 in) – the equivalent of two ping-pong tables laid end to end. Captured in 1987 in northern Australia, he was moved to Marineland Melanesia wildlife park – owned by George Craig (the man pictured below with his feet dangling in the pool…) – where he resides to this day. The park is located on Green Island, which sits in the Great Barrier Reef – the world's longest reef.
The largest crocodile in captivity ever outsized even Cassius. When transferred to Bunawan Eco-Park in the Philippines in 2011, Lolong lived up to his name with an unprecedented – and as-yet-unsurpassed – total length of 6.17 m (20 ft 3 in). He sadly passed away in 2013.
However, if you think saltwater crocs are massive, wait till you hear about one of their ancient ancestors…
The terrifying Sarcosuchus imperator is estimated to have measured as long as 12.2 m (40 ft) and weighed as much as 8 tonnes (17,600 lb). To put that in context, that made this colossal animal double the length of Lolong and around 7.5 times his weight. It’s little wonder that this mega-predator is sometimes dubbed “super-croc”.
Calculating the size of long-extinct creatures always requires an element of educated guesswork, but these extrapolations are based on fairly extensive skeletal remains that were excavated in Africa by US palaeontologist Paul Sereno.
Sarcosuchus lived 112 million years ago in the Mid-Cretaceous, making it a contemporary of more familiar record-breaking reptilians, such as Spinosaurus (the largest carnivorous dinosaur – yes, this meat-eating dino was even longer than T. rex), the Microraptor (the smallest dinosaur) and Sauroposeidon (the tallest dinosaur).
The crocodile family tree is rather complex, but Sarcosuchus sat in a group near the very beginning of their lineage, known as the Crocodyliformes – hence its record title as the largest crocodyliform ever.
From what experts can tell – size aside – the distant relation of today’s crocodilians most likely looked very similar to saltwater crocs (though the end of its snout may have been a bit more bulbous). The very fact that crocs have survived so many millions of years with so few adaptations is testament to their ultra-efficient design. To put its evolution in simple terms: why try and fix something that ain’t broke?
Given their close resemblance, we felt comfortable letting a saltwater crocodile stand in for Sarcosuchus in our to-scale mock-up – part of a new series we have dubbed "snapshots" – which shows off just how big its ancient ancestor really was!
We know that it can be hard to wrap your head around the scale of certain records… particularly our larger-than-life ones! To help with that, in Guinness World Records 2020 (out in early September 2019), we have gathered some of the most mind-boggling records and relocated them to the UK capital – the home of the company’s HQ for 65 years.
By placing these record-breakers alongside iconic London landmarks and features – from Big Ben (aka Elizabeth Tower) and Tower Bridge to the quintessential British red telephone box – we hope it will really help to put these amazing records into context. Other "snapshots" focus on records such as the tallest tree, the wealth of the richest person and the largest pizza.