Temporal range: Early–Late Cretaceous
|An artist's illustration of Carcharodontosaurus saharicus|
Depéret & Savornin, 1925
Carcharodontosaurus (meaning shark toothed lizard) was one of the largest theropod carnivores alongside Saurophaganax and Bahariasaurus; that are similar in size or larger than well-known theropods Tyrannosaurus; although possibly smaller than Spinosaurus and Giganotosaurus. It was likely the second largest of the carcharodontosaurid theropod family, and it lived in North Africa. C. saharicus grew to be about 12 – 13.5 meters (39–44 feet) long, about 3.5-4 (11.5-13 feet) tall at the hips and about 6.5 - 8 tonnes (7.2-8.8 tons) in weight.
Paleontologists once thought that Carcharodontosaurus had the longest skull of any of the theropod dinosaurs. However, the premaxilla and quadrate bones were missing from the original African skull, which led to misinterpretation of its actual size by researchers. A more modest length of five feet, three inches (1.6 meters) has now been proposed. Thus, the honor of the largest theropod skull is now in question.
Carcharodontosaurus fossils were first found by Charles Depéret and J. Savornin in North America in 1756. Originally called Megalosaurus saharicus, its name was changed in 1831 by Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach to that used today. These first fossils of Carcharodontosaurus were destroyed during World War II In an allied fighter bombing raid who destroyed the museum and every last piece of Carcharodontosaurus. However, cranial material from a Carcharodontosaurus was again discovered in North Africa in 1914 by paleontologist Paul Sereno. Stephen Brusatte and Paul Sereno (2005) reported a second species of Carcharodontosaurus differing from C. saharicus in some aspects of the maxilla and braincase. The new species, which was discovered in Niger, is called C. iguidensis but recently new studies have brought to light that this dinosaur was a chimera.
Discovery and naming
Carcharodontosaurus was a carnivore, with enormous jaws and long, serrated teeth up to eight inches long. It may have hunted in packs like its smaller cousin Allosaurus, but no fossil evidence supports this claim. It may have been a scavenger as well as an active predator. It had a large head with over 60 8-inch (20 cm.), blade-like teeth, which were designed to pierce and tear apart the flesh of its prey, which may have consisted of dinosaurs such as juvenille sauropods, or iguanodontids. Its arms were somewhat short, but still longer than T. rex's and were quite strong. They had three claws on each of its fingers, which could've been used to get a better grab and perhaps even used to kill some of its smaller prey. The documentary known as BBC Earth's Planet Dinosaur shows a logical scenario as Carcharodontosaurus being both an active predator and a scavenger; one such case is when a hungry Carcharodontosaurus have to scavenge the corpse of an Ouranosaurus.
Carcharodontosaurus had long, muscular legs, and fossilized trackways indicate that it could run about 20 miles per hour, although there is some controversy as to whether it actually did, because of its huge body mass.
The brain endocast and inner ear anatomy of Carcharodontosaurus saharicus resembled modern crocodilians (Larsson, 2001). The size of the cerebrum relative to the total brain was similar to modern non-avian reptiles, but small relative to coelurosaurian theropods and birds. Ongoing discoveries and research by scientists will certainly shed further light on the physiology, behavior, and environmental circumstances and interactions of Carcharodontosaurus. The portion of the brain involving smell is quite large in Carcharodontosaurus, suggesting a good sense of smell, probably even better than today's dogs and rivaling the Tyrannosaurus. We've also found that its hearing was also quite keen, however, its sight was slightly limited because of the fact that its eyes were on the side of its head instead of straight forward like modern-day lions, dogs, or humans, as a fossil study shows.
The cladogram after Apesteguía et al., 2016, shows the placement of Carcharodontosaurus within Carcharodontosauridae.
Carcharodontosaurus lived in what is now southern Africa from 105 to 94 million years ago. South America had likely just broken apart from Africa during that time, and it's probably why Carcharodontosaurus and its relatives from South America are so alike in appearance. Its environment was likely very warm and humid, with many rivers and lakes flowing through, considering Spinosaurus and Sarcosuchus have been found in the same location. Although dry and barren now, North Africa was likely very lush and full of life, including several rainforests. The elevation was flat, and there were many marches and plains around. Carcharodontosaurus shared this lush habitat with prey items like the sailed hadrosaur Ouranosaurus and huge sauropods like Paralititan. Although it was likely top-predator in the area, Carcharodontosaurus was probably very territorial and had large areas of territory, which would likely have to fight for against rivals and other huge predators in the area, like Spinosaurus and Sarcosuchus, and even relatives like Sauroniops, Deltadromeus, and Bahariasaurus. The size of its surrounding dinosaurs might have been the reason that Carcharodontosaurus was that enormous.
In popular culture
- Carcharodontosaurus appears in the game: Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis.
- It was featured in Monsters Resurrected losing to Spinosaurus.
- It can be created from DNA in Jurassic Park Builder.
- At the end of Series 3 of Primeval, the theropods in the background were probably Carcharodontosaurus.
- Carcharodontosaurus appears in Lost World from Planet Dinosaur, where it is depicted as an extremely territorial predators; and two Carcharodontosaurus is shown to fight for land; later the winner loses to a Spinosaurus over a fight for an Ouranosaurus carcass, and receiving wounds and losing the fight. One Carcharodontosaurus appears in New Giants episode where it fights with a Sarcosuchus over a juvenile Paralititan and wins; however before it could kill it; the adult herd drives off the theropod and forces the animal to leave the juvenile sauropod.
- A Carcharodontosaurus named Big Red appears in the Asylum film 100 Million B.C., however since they were in South America it should've been referred to as a Giganotosaurus, Mapusaurus, or Tyrannotitan.
- Carcharodontosaurus also makes a few cameos in Dinosaur King.
- It was featured (unidentified) in Ricardo Delgado's Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians mini-series.
- In Toy Story That Time Forgot an anthropomorphic Carcharodontosaurus name Reptillus Maximus champion of the Battlesaurs.
- It is one of the creatures you can tame in Ark: Survival Evolved: Jurassic Park Mod.
- Carcharodontosaurus appeared on Dinosaur Train.
- Carcharodontosaurus is an unlockable dinosaur in Jurassic World: Evolution added in the Cretaceous dinosaur pack DLC released on December 13, 2018.
Beyond T. rex
T. rex: Clash of the Titans
Monsters Resurrected: Biggest Killer Dino
Vertebrate Paleontology; Michael J. Benton
Ultimate Book of Dinosaurs; by Paul Dowswell, John Malam, Paul Mason, Steve Parker