- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

A powerful creature once swam the wide rivers that eventually dried up and became the Sahara Desert. During the Earth's Cretaceous period, this cranky crocodilian beast used its 40-foot form, 17,000 pounds of girth and viselike jaws to take on small dinosaurs more than 110 million years ago.
One scientist and his group of assistants unearthed the remains of this monster last year and recently debuted their findings at the National Geographic Society in the District. A Web site immediately followed that takes visitors into a multimedia adventure chronicling the discovery and what it means to the world of paleontology.
SuperCroc
Site address: ww.supercroc.org
Creator: Project Exploration, a nonprofit science-education organization based in Chicago, created the site, which was co-developed by Gabrielle Lyon, executive director of Project Exploration, and Web master Erik Vecchione.
Creator quotable: "Project Exploration creates Internet initiatives like SuperCroc.org to make science accessible beyond a headline in a newspaper or a scientific article," says Miss Lyon, a member of the scientific team that unearthed the supercroc.
"The Internet is a powerful tool for breaking traditional barriers between scientists and the public especially when you're armed with real-life discoveries like the world's largest crocodile. We hope our site is useful not only for teachers, but also for anyone who wants to learn more about something that interests them."
Word from the Webwise: From September to December 2000, paleontologist Paul Sereno and a group of students, professionals and passionate hobbyists combed the Nigerian deserts, fighting 130-degree heat to collect more than 20,000 pounds of fossils. This dedication to science paid off by giving scientists a much better picture of Sarcosuchus imperator the "flesh crocodile emperor."
French paleontologists Albert Lapparent in the 1940s and Philippe Taquet in the 1960s and early '70s already had found evidence of the beast, but Mr. Sereno and his team collected 50 percent of its skeletal remains enough to construct a life-size model of the creature.
The beautiful companion Web site begins with an enticing movie and inside pages about the dig and discoveries. The design resembles a field journal, complete with pages that look like part of a ring binder. Sections of interest include "All About Sarcosuchus," "Features and Interviews," "Discovery Stories" and "Image Gallery." Each is supported with plenty of insider text, explanations and colorful photographs or illustrations.
For example, stop by "Discovery Stories" for a journey into "Niger Expedition 2000." There, visitors not only will find a detailed overview of the dig, down to the number of bags of plaster used (80), but also will be able to read field updates, articles on the discoveries, information on the base camp and even tips on how to excavate fossils.
Much of the content appears to have been culled from Project Exploration's main site (www.projectexploration.org), which itself should be explored thoroughly for its many educational opportunities.
I also found the "Image Gallery" priceless, with archives featuring paleoart reconstructions of Sarcosuchus, the yearlong cleaning and repairing of the bones, shots from the field and the construction of the life-size flesh model.
Ease of use: SuperCroc work best with the latest browser and needs the Macromedia Flash plug-in for some of the areas.
Don't miss: The site is devoted to the remains of this goliath, and the "All About Sarcosuchus," section does not disappoint. I found a handy fact sheet; took an interactive tour of the skeleton, complete with explanatory pop-up windows; and enjoyed a special look at its skull.
Elements on the horizon: Project Exploration has three major developments scheduled for the SuperCroc site: the inclusion of a searchable question-and-answer library, including queries answered by Mr. Sereno from the field; an annotated image gallery that will contain photos from expeditions and working laboratories; and an extensive "student works" area that will include interactive pages developed by students in Project Exploration programs.
Comprehension level: Students in middle school and higher will appreciate the care taken in providing not only lots of scientific detail, but also a glossary, printable work sheets and other information.
Overall grade: B+

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool technology site? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).


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