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Ancient SuperCroc Had Cousins


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Grades 2-up

News Content

Five ancient crocodile species were recently discovered in Africas Sahara desert.

Anticipation Guide

If you have the technology tools to do so, share this video with your students:

Dinosaur Graveyard
The video introduces Dr. Paul Sereno, a paleontologist from the University of Chicago, and sets up his teams discovery of SuperCroc, which led to the most recent discoveries of five new crocodile species that lived 100 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed Earth.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: ancient, cousins, combination, grubs, advantage, and caiman. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar.

grubs -- the young form of some insects that look like short white worms
caiman [KAY-mun] -- tropical reptiles that resemble the alligator
Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:
  • The spectacled White _____ is the most common of all crocodile species. (caiman)
  • In _____ times, the Egyptians built pyramids to hold the remains and belongings of their leaders. (ancient)
  • The _____ to writing in cursive style is that it is much faster than printing. (advantage)
  • Many birds eat _____ that can harm lawns. (grubs)
  • My mother uses a _____ of spices and herbs that makes for some yummy fried chicken. (combination)
  • Hundreds of aunts, uncles, and _____ are coming to the family reunion. (cousins)
  • Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Ancient SuperCroc Had Cousins.

    Reading the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

    Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

    Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

    Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • A team led by Dr. Paul Sereno, a paleontologist from the University of Chicago, recently discovered fossils from three brand-new crocodile species and new fossils of two previously known species. During their work, Sereno and his team endured desert temperatures topping 125 degrees (Fahrenheit) as they lived for months on dehydrated food.
  • A French paleontologist named Alfred Felix de Lapparent found fossilized teeth and armor plates of a giant crocodile while on several prospecting missions to the Sahara in the 1940's and 1950's. It wasnt until 2000, though, that a half-complete skeleton of SuperCroc was found in Niger by Dr. Sereno and his colleagues.
  • SuperCroc, or Sarcosuchus imperator [Sar-koh-soo-kis im-peer-ay-tor], which means flesh crocodile emperor," had a skull that was 6 feet long with 132 teeth. Two rows of about 35 armored plates ran along its neck, back, and tail. SuperCroc weighed about 10 times as much as todays heaviest living croc. It likely lurked by the water's edge for prey because it was too heavy to run very fast.
  • SuperCroc and its cousins lived about 100 million years ago and became extinct about 64 million years ago. They lived in the deserts of Niger [modern Sahara Desert] and Morocco. In ancient times, those deserts looked nothing like they do today. They were lush plains and river valleys. They were part of the ancient southern continent of Gondwana and enjoyed a warm, moist climate similar to present-day Florida.
  • DogCroc and DuckCroc had broad, spade-shaped forebrains that look different from those of living crocs. They may have had slightly more sophisticated brain function than living crocs, because active hunting on land usually requires more brain power than merely waiting for prey to show up," said paleontologist Hans Larsson, an associate professor at McGill University in Montreal and the team member who discovered the bones of BoarCroc and PancakeCroc.
  • Not long ago, Sereno traveled to northern Australia to study freshwater crocodiles that live there today. Those crocs are able to gallop at full speed on land; in a flash they turn fishlike, their bodies and tails moving side to side, propelling them in water. In witnessing those modern-day Australian crocs, Sereno was able to hypothesize how some of the ancient crocs he discovered might have acted in similar ways. My African crocs appeared to have had both upright, agile legs for bounding overland and a versatile tail for paddling in water," Sereno wrote in a National Geographic magazine article. Their amphibious talents in the past may be the key to understanding how they flourished in, and ultimately survived, the dinosaur era."
  • Use the News

    Print out this weeks Use the News printable activity page for students. Or use the questions on that page to check student comprehension.

    Use the News: Answer Key
    Comprehension Check. 1. DogCroc; 2. PancakeCroc; 3. RatCroc; 4. DuckCroc; 5. PancakeCroc; 6. BoarCroc; 7. DuckCroc; 8. BoarCroc; 9. PancakeCroc; 10.. Boar or PancakeCroc.
    Language Practice: Find the Mistake. 1. dessert should be desert; 2. florida should be Florida; 3. the period at the end of the sentence should be a question mark; 4. has should be have; 5. wouldnt should be wouldnt.
    Main Idea. A handful of different crocodiles roamed Earth at the same time as the dinosaurs did.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
    GRADES K - 12
    NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
    NSS-G.K-12.2 Places and Regions

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2009 Education World