Scale diagram showing the size of P. brasiliensis (red)
The estimated skull length for one large individual of the type speciesP. brasiliensis is 1,400 millimetres (55 in).Paleontologists estimate that P. brasiliensis reached around 12.5 metres (41 ft) in length, weighing around 8.4 metric tons, with a mean daily food intake of 40.6 kg. Bite force has been estimated to be around 69,000 N (around 7 metric tons-force). The large size and estimated strength of this animal appears to have allowed it to include a wide range of prey in its diet, making it an apex predator in its ecosystem. As an adult, it would have preyed upon large to very large vertebrates with no real competition from sympatric, smaller, carnivores. Researchers have proposed that the large size of Purussaurus, though offering many advantages, may also have led to its vulnerability. The constantly changing environment on a large geological scale may have reduced its long-term survival, favoring smaller species more resilient to ecological shifts.
Analysis of a biomechanical model of the skull of Purussaurus indicated that it was capable of performing the "death roll" maneuver used by extant crocodilians to subdue and dismember their prey.
Brazilian P. brasiliensis is associated with sharks, rays, freshwater teleosts, lungfish, turtles including Stupendemys, crocodilians including Charactosuchus, Gryposuchus, and Mourasuchus, Anhinga birds, and mammals including sloths, bats, rodents, the primate Stirtonia, and river dolphins. River, floodplain, and lake environments were present. Marine and freshwater fish, turtles, crocodilians, and terrestrial and aquatic mammals are associated with Venezuelan P. mirandai. Its environment is described as tropical and coastal. The earlier Colombian P. neivensis lived alongside a massive variety of fauna, including astrapotheres like Granastrapotherium and Xenastrapotherium, the early species of Mourasuchus and Gryposuchus, and the terrestrial crocodyliform Langstonia. This fauna dates from 13 million years ago, in the Laventan stage of the Late Miocene.
^ abAguilera, Orangel A.; Riff, Douglas; Bocquentin‐Villanueva, Jean (2006). "A new giant Purussaurus (Crocodyliformes, Alligatoridae) from the Upper Miocene Urumaco Formation, Venezuela". Journal of Systematic Palaeontology4 (3): 221–232. doi:10.1017/S147720190600188X. ISSN1477-2019.
^ abcAureliano, Tito; Ghilardi, Aline M.; Guilherme, Edson; Souza-Filho, Jonas P.; Cavalcanti, Mauro; Riff, Douglas (2015). "Morphometry, Bite-Force, and Paleobiology of the Late Miocene Caiman Purussaurus brasiliensis". PLOS ONE10 (2): e0117944. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117944. ISSN1932-6203.
^Blanco, R. E.; Jones, W. W.; Villamil, J. N. (2014-04-16). "The 'death roll' of giant fossil crocodyliforms (Crocodylomorpha: Neosuchia): Allometric and skull strength analysis". Historical Biology: 1. doi:10.1080/08912963.2014.893300.edit