Carcharodontosaurus was one of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs of all time. This terrifying theropod was named after the great white shark, Carcharodon, and rivalled the mighty T. rex in both size and ferocity. It prowled the river deltas of northern Africa during the Late Cretaceous, 93 million years ago.
This ground-shaking carnivore was first named in 1927 on thebasis of two isolated teeth found in Algeria. It was given the name'Megalosaurus saharicus' after the Sahara Desert where it wasdiscovered. In 1931, better fossil material was described fromEgypt, including part of the skull, leg bones, and several backbones. It was given a new tongue-twisting name in reference to theshape of the teeth, which are blade-like and resemble those of thegreat white shark, Carcharodon. Hence, Carcharodontosaurus saharicus means 'great white sharkreptile from the Sahara'.
Sadly, the rare Carcharodontosaurus fossils were entirely destroyed duringthe Second World War, when a bomb hit the museum in Munich,Germany, where the Egyptian fossils were kept. Decades later, in1995, an impressive new skull was discovered in Morocco. With theAlgerian teeth now lost and the Egyptian skeleton a victim of war,this Moroccan skull became the new basis for this spectaculardinosaur.
Carcharodontosaurus fossils are known from Late Cretaceousdeposits across Northern Africa. It shared its coastal plain andriver delta environments with several other large predatorydinosaurs, including Spinosaurus and Deltadromeus. It is still a mystery how so many differentlarge predators could have lived alongside each other in anenvironment with limited prey resources. Maybe Charcharodontosaurus hunted very large prey such as thegiant sauropod Paralititan, while the other carnivores occupied otherecological niches and hunted smaller prey, or fish in the case of Spinosaurus.
A second species of Carcharodontosaurus was named in 2007; Carcharodontosaurus iguidensis . This species, from Niger,differs from C. saharicus in several details of the skull. It extendedthe known geographical range of Carcharodontosaurus further south, and proved that Carcharodontosaurus is more diverse than previouslysupposed.