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Carcharodontosaurus

kuh - KAR - oh - dont - oh - SAW - rus

Theropoda/Allosauroidae
Alain Beneteau. Copyright 2006

Field Notes

Name Means: "White-shark-toothed lizard"
Length: 43 feet (13 m)
Diet: Carnivore (Meat-Eater)
Time: Late Cretaceous
Location: Argentina

The very name of this dinosaur conjures powerful images of how it may have dispatched its prey-Carcharodon is the generic name for the widely feared ocean predator, the great white shark.

Like other theropods, Carcharodontosaurus had teeth that were serrated along the front and back. However, Carcharodontosaurus's teeth were triangular and did not curve back as much as those of most theropods. To Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach, the German paleontologist who first described this dinosaur in the 1930s, these teeth seemed peculiarly sharklike. This observed similarity led to the naming of the dinosaur.

The remains on which Stromer had based his description came from the late Cretaceous of Egypt but they were far from complete. Although more fossils-including some claws and teeth that French paleontologists found in the Sahara in the 1970s-came to light elsewhere in north Africa, all that could definitely be deduced from them was that Carcharodontosaurus was a huge creature. Eventually, during the 1990s, Dr. Paul Sereno from the University of Chicago discovered a skull of Carcharodontosaurus in Morocco. When restored, this skull measured about 6 feet (2 m) long-as large as that of Tyrannosaurus. However, the cavity that contained the brain of Carcharodontosaurus was much smaller.

Carcharodontosaurus was obviously a close relative of Giganotosaurus from South America. Both of these dinosaurs had deep, domed snouts and teeth that were smaller and more numerous than those of Tyrannosaurus. It is possible that these two contemporaneous, but geographically separated, dinosaurs shared a common ancestor that lived at a time when South America and Africa were still parts of the same landmass. When this landmass broke apart, different lineages could have developed. Like Giganotosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus may have preyed on large sauropods.

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