“Most Dangerous Place in the History of Planet Earth” Revealed by Paleontologists

Predator paradise — The giant predatory dinosaur Carcharodontosaurus eyes a group of Elosuchus — crocodile-like hunters — near a carcass.
Credit: Artwork by Davide Bonadonna

100 million years ago, ferocious predators, including flying reptiles and crocodile-like hunters, made the Sahara the most dangerous place on Earth.

This is according to an international team of scientists, who have published the biggest review in almost 100 years of fossil vertebrates from an area of Cretaceous rock formations in south-eastern Morocco, known as the Kem Kem Group.

The review, published in the journal ZooKeys, “provides a window into Africa’s Age of Dinosaurs” according to lead author Dr. Nizar Ibrahim, an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Detroit Mercy and Visiting Researcher from the University of Portsmouth.

About 100 million years ago, the area was home to a vast river system, filled with many different species of aquatic and terrestrial animals. Fossils from the Kem Kem Group include three of the largest predatory dinosaurs ever known, including the saber-toothed Carcharodontosaurus (over 8m in length with enormous jaws and long, serrated teeth up to eight inches long) and Deltadromeus (around 8m in length, a member of the raptor family with long, unusually slender hind limbs for its size), as well as several predatory flying reptiles (pterosaurs) and crocodile-like hunters. Dr. Ibrahim said: “This was arguably the most dangerous place in the history of planet Earth, a place where a human time-traveler would not last very long.”

Many of the predators were relying on an abundant supply of fish, according to co-author Professor David Martill from the University of Portsmouth. He said: “This place was filled with absolutely enormous fish, including giant coelacanths and lungfish. The coelacanth, for example, is probably four or even five times large than today’s coelacanth. There is an enormous freshwater saw shark called Onchopristis with the most fearsome of rostral teeth, they are like barbed daggers, but beautifully shiny.”

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