|An artist's illustration of Sauroniops pachytholus|
Cau et al., 2012
Cau et al., 2012
Sauroniops (sore-AHN-ee-OPS) was a very large carnivorous carcharodontosaurid theropod dinosaur from North Africa, and lived from 118-95 million years ago. It was similar in size to Tyrannosaurus rex.
Sauroniops was first discovered in the deserts of North Africa in the early 21st century, but so little was found (only it's left eye socket had been found) that it was only rumored at the time and wasn't certain to be a new species. It was rediscovered in early November in 2012, and was quickly realized that it was a giant predatory dinosaur. It was recognized and named by Andrea Cau, Marco Dalla Vecchia, and Matteo Fabbri. They named this new species Sauroniops pachytholus, which means "Eye of Sauron" (after the Lord of the Rings Villian, Sauron). It got its name because the eye socket that had allowed us to discover this massive theropod was very big and fierce-looking, and reminded the paleontological team of the Lord of the Rings villain Sauron.
Sauroniops was a very large, bipedal theropod. It likely evolved from the Jurassic, North American Allosaurus, a large and deadly predator on its own. Being one of the largest land predators yet discovered, it grew to be 40 feet (12 meters) long, 9.8 feet (3.2 meters) tall, and 4.5 tonnes in weight. Although little is known or has been discovered about it, we can also get a pretty good picture of what Sauroniops was like from its carcharodontosaurian cousins, like its African relatives Carcharodontosaurus, Bahariasaurus, and Deltadromeus, and its South American relatives Giganotosaurus, Mapusaurus, and Tyrannotitan. It had a large head, possibly over 5 feet (1.5 meters) long, and like its carnosaurian cousins, had long, bladelike teeth that were perfectly designed for piercing flesh. It had two long, powerful back legs with taloned feet and somewhat short arms with three clawed hands. It also had a long, extending tail that would've greatly helped balance out its massive head. One feature that sets Sauroniops apart from its relatives is that it had bumps and knobs on its head that may have been used for head-butting for fighting over mates and territory. Like its other cousin, Carcharodontosaurus, it was an apex predator in Africa, and would likely have eaten anything it could catch and kill, such as the sauropod Paralititan. It likely competed for territory with rivals and possibly even other large predators like Carcharodontosaurus, Deltadromeus, Bahariasaurus, Spinosaurus, and also coexisted with the crocodylomorph Stomatosuchus.