“Shark-Tooth Lizard” – Carcharodontosaurus

For a long time, this particular dinosaur was the only known representative of the Carcharodontosaurids, for a time it was described as a Megalosaurus, falling into that particular taxonomic waste basket.  However, it was Ernst Stromer who revised the initial study and changed this dinosaur’s name to Carcharodontosaurus saharicus.  The slightly curved and serrated teeth which were long but quite thin reminded Stromer of the teeth of sharks, hence the name “shark-tooth lizard” as Stromer stated, the name was chosen as a result of “its mainly Carcharodon-like teeth”.

As the BBC television programme alluded to in last night’s episode “Lost World” a great deal has been discovered about dinosaurs in the last ten years or so.  The Carcharodontids are no exception with a number of large Theropods from the southern hemisphere now classified as members of this family, even one or two from Laurasia (northern latitudes) are possible members of this family,

Carcharodontosaurus fossils have been found in North Africa and indicate a large Theropod, perhaps measuring more than 14 metres in length, larger than a T. rex just as the planet dinosaur Carcharodontosaurus was portrayed in last night’s programme.

Everything Dinosaur’s Illustration of C. saharicus

Illustration Credit: Everything Dinosaur

An expedition to Morocco by the Chicago Field Museum in the mid 1990s discovered more fossils of this dinosaur including skull material.  The skull and jaw bones found were some of the biggest Theropod skull bones ever found and this dinosaur’s reputation as a giant was sealed.

One of the more unusual aspects of the Carcharodontosaurids is that their fossil remains are often found in association with other large Theropods.  Carcharodontosaurus for example, shared its environment with the large Coelurosaur Deltadromeus.  It also lived alongside Spinosaurus and the Abelisaur Rugops as depicted by the BBC in their programme last night.  This suggests that these carnivores may have been exploiting different food resources and filling different niches in the eco-system.  This would have reduced inter-specific competition.  Perhaps some of these creatures were diurnal hunters whilst others hunted at night.  This could help explain some of the ornate eyebrow crests and ridges above the eyes of these predators.  These features could have shielded a predator’s eyes from strong sunlight helping the animal see in poor light conditions.

With the newly discovered Tyrannotitan, Eocarcharia, Mapusaurus as well as Giganotosaurus it seems like palaeontologists are going to have their hands full trying to classify all these meat-eaters.

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