The Carcharodontosaurus was a large carnivorous dinosaur. It belongs to the same suborder Theropoda which contains the famous Tyrannosaurus, but they are very, very distantly related. The size of the Carcharodontosaurus was slightly larger than both the Tyrannosaurus and the Gigantosasurus. For many decades, the Tyrannosaurus was believed to be the largest meat eating dinosaur. The discovery of the Carcharodontosaurus proved otherwise. But was distinctly smaller than the Spinosaurus, the largest known carnivore.
The fossils of this dinosaur have been discovered from various regions in Northern Africa. It was known as the ‘African T. rex’ for the longest time, making people erroneously believe that the dinosaurs were synonymous.
It is needless to say that the Carcharodontosaurus was a meat eating dinosaur. Its adult length was between 40 and 43 feet. It is difficult to judge its exact weight, but scientist estimate that it could have been anything between 9 to 15 short tons.
The time period of the existence of the Carcharodontosaurus was about 100 to 95 million years ago. This lied in the Cenomanian and Turonian ages. The Tyrannosaurus appeared on the earth about 30 to 35 million years later in the Maastrichtian age.
The name of the Carcharodontosaurus is derived from the scientific name of the Great White shark, the Carcharodon. The teeth of this dinosaur greatly resembled those of the Great White and hence this name was selected for it. The term ‘karcharo’ is the Greek word for ‘acute’ or ‘jagged’; the term ‘odonto’ means ‘teeth’. ‘Sauros’ is again the Greek term for ‘lizard’.
Thus, the name Carcharodontosaurus can be translated as ‘the lizard with the sharp teeth’ or ‘the Great White shark lizard’. The genus was named by scientist Ernst Stromer.
The species name C. sahricus was given to this dinosaur (by Deperet and Savornin) as its fossils were discovered in a rock formation in the Sahara desert. The species C. iguidensis is named (by Sereno and Brusatte) after the Erg Iguidi desert in Algeria, where its fossils were originally found.
Discovery and nature of fossils
- The bones ascribed to the Carcharodontosaurus currently were first excavated in the year 1914 from the Bahariya Formation of Egypt. They remained undefined as there was very few similar dinosaurs to compare them to. They consisted of a partial skull, a few vertebrae, digits, parts of the pelvic girdle and the hind limbs.
- In the year 1927, Savornin and Deperet described asset of teeth they had found in Algeria. They classified them under the genus Megalosaurus and named the species as saharicus. The Megalosaurus was a genus that was used to group any bones of uncertain origins in the early 1900s.
- In 1931, Ernst Stromer described the remains found in 1914 as the Carcharodontosaurus, since the teeth resembled those of the Carcharodon. He also observed that the teeth described in 1927 were extremely similar to those of the 1914 remains and moved them to genus Carcharodontosaurus. He retained the species name saharicus.
- The bones described by Stromer were unfortunately destroyed in the Second World War.
- In the year 1995, Paul Sereno discovered a complete skull in a location very close to the place where Savornin and Deperet made their discovery, in the Kem Kem Formation of Morocco. Sereno called it a neotype of the Carcharodontosaurus.
- Sereno and Brusatte also found a new skull in the Echkar Formation of Nigeria in 2006, It differed from the older fossils on with respect to the upper jaw and cranium and hence Sereno called it a sub-species, the C. iguidensis.
- However, recent studies show that the newly defined sub-species of the Carcharodontosaurus may be a chimera.
The Carcharodontosaurus is currently classified under suborder Theropoda, clade Carnosauria and family Carcharodontosauridae. It is also grouped in the subfamily Carcharodontosaurinae, which includes only the Carcharodontosaurus. This distinction was made due to the skeletal differences between this reptile and the other Carcharodontosaurid dinosaurs.
The Carcharodontosaurus was one of the largest carnivores to ever walk the earth. Its length was about 12.5 to 13 meters from snout to tail. Its mass could have been as much as 7000 kilos to 14,000 kilos.
The skull of the Carcharodontosaurus was once believed to be the longest of all known theropods. However, it is now known that that Spinosaurus has the largest skull. The length of the same for the Carcharodontosaurus is about 5.3 feet.
The teeth of this reptile were serrated and almost 20 cms long.
- Cranium and inner ear:
The brain case of this dinosaur has been extensively studied. Scientists have found that the brain of the Carcharodontosaurus was proportionately smaller as compared to the rest of its body. This meant that it intelligence level was low.
The inner ear canal of this dinosaur was semicircular, with three concentric canals being present.
The optic nerve of this dinosaur was thickened, indicating that it had a keen eyesight.
- Its forelimbs were very much reduced, much like all other large theropods.
- The hind legs of the dinosaur were sturdy and could offer it a reasonably good acceleration.
- The tail of the Carcharodontosaurus was long, being thick at the base and tapering towards the tip.
Habits and habitat
The Carcharodontosaurus was carnivorous. It had a massively powerful jaw which inflicted serious injuries to its prey. Due to this, it did not its forelegs to grasp or catch its target, as the jaws would immobilize or kill it instantly.
Most theropods relied on their sense of hearing to catch their prey. But the Carcharodontosaurus mostly used its vision for this purpose. So unless it had pupils and retinas like modern felines, it could hunt only diurnally.
The habitat of the Carcharodontosaurus consisted for woodlands and grasslands that were interspersed with wetlands.
Related and coexisting species
The Carcharodontosaurus was related to the Gigantosaurus, Mapusaurus and the Tyrannotitan. It could have shared it habitat with the Spinosaurus, Deltadromeus and the Rebbachisaurus.
The final notes
Dinosaurs like the Carcharodontosaurus were very large in size and extremely fierce. Yet their brains did not evolve as fast as the other dinosaurs. This could be reason why the Carcharodontosaurus disappeared in the middle of the Cretaceous. However, it would be hasty to call this animal unintelligent based solely on brain size as its soft tissue composition is unknown. The Carcharodontosaurus was nonetheless one of the most dreaded land predators of all time.