Variation in modern crocodilian and extinct thalattosuchian crocodylomorph skull morphology is only weakly correlated with phylogeny, implying that factors other than evolutionary proximity play important roles in determining crocodile skull shape. To further explore factors potentially influencing morphological differentiation within the Thalattosuchia, we examine teleosaurid and metriorhynchid skull shape variation within a mechanical and dietary context using a combination of finite element modelling and multivariate statistics. Patterns of stress distribution through the skull were found to be very similar in teleosaurid and metriorhynchid species, with stress peaking at the posterior constriction of the snout and around the enlarged supratemporal fenestrae. However, the magnitudes of stresses differ, with metriorhynchids having generally stronger skulls. As with modern crocodilians, a strong linear relationship between skull length and skull strength exists, with short-snouted morphotypes experiencing less stress through the skull than long-snouted morphotypes under equivalent loads. Selection on snout shape related to dietary preference was found to work in orthogonal directions in the two families: diet is associated with snout length in teleosaurids and with snout width in metriorhynchids, suggesting that teleosaurid skulls were adapted for speed of attack and metriorhynchid skulls for force production. Evidence also indicates that morphological and functional differentiation of the skull occurred as a result of dietary preference, allowing closely related sympatric species to exploit a limited environment. Comparisons of the mechanical performance of the thalattosuchian skull with extant crocodilians show that teleosaurids and long-snouted metriorhynchids exhibit stress magnitudes similar to or greater than those of long-snouted modern forms, whereas short-snouted metriorhynchids display stress magnitudes converging on those found in short-snouted modern species. As a result, teleosaurids and long-snouted metriorhynchids were probably restricted to lateral attacks of the head and neck, but short-snouted metriorhynchids may have been able to employ the grasp and shake and/or ‘death roll’ feeding and foraging behaviours.