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'Terror crocodiles' up to 33 feet in length used to roam prehistoric North American waterways

They were more than double the size of the longest alligator caught in Florida.
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE: An alligator swims through a canal in Florida (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)

TAMPA, Fla. — Editor's note: the photo attached to the top of this story is an American alligator, not a "terror crocodile."

If you think the wildlife you see around Florida, like the crocodiles, snakes and alligators are scary, then you might not want to hear about an ancient animal the size of a school bus with huge teeth that used to roam the continent. 

It's called Deinosuchus, or the "terror crocodile," and a new study says it was the "largest carnivore in its ecosystem" during the late Cretaceous period at 33 feet long. 

They were so big a vertebrate paleobiologist who led the study on them sent an email to the New York Times saying, "while it was difficult to determine their average size because there were so few known specimens, the specimens that we do have are all HUGE.” 

A large American alligator this day and age can get to about 12 or 13 feet long and weigh 700-800 pounds, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The state record for the longest alligator in Florida was 14-feet-3 and a half inches long and was caught in Brevard County. The heaviest gator caught in Florida was a 1,043-pound male in Alachua County.

The research says the terror crocs would feed on dinosaurs that would make their way into the crocs' waterways. Because of their size, the snacking doesn't stop there; research says they probably ate just about anything that they came across. 

The study says the terror croc wasn't alone out there. There were at least three species of the Deinosuchus in the U.S. Two lived out west from Montana to Northern Mexico and another one called the east coast from New Jersey to Mississippi home. 

RELATED: New fossil discovery shows snakes had legs for millions of years

RELATED: As temperatures rise, so do your chances of seeing an alligator

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