Name Meaning:  Shark Tooth Lizard

Geologic Era:  Middle Cretaceous  (100 million years ago)

Location Discovered: Algeria (original specimen), newer finds in Morocco and possibly Niger

Size:   Up to 13 meters long

Estimated Range: Modern North Africa

Extinction Date:  Middle Cretaceous (93 million years ago)

Cast of tooth

Cast of foot claw

This dinosaur is often called the “African T-Rex,” though this name is rather misleading.  Carcharodontosaurus was comparable in length to Tyrannosaurus rex, perhaps a bit larger.  However, it was not closely related to Tyrannosaurs, rather, it was more closely related to the South American Giganotosaurus.  The most striking differences between Carcharodontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus is in the skull.  Tyrannosaurus has a more boxy skull, where Carcharodontosaurus has a more elongated skull.


Comparison of Giganotosaurus and Tyrannosaurus (note overall body plan and skull shape)

The teeth of Carcharodontosaurus earned it the comparison with Carcharodon, the giant shark that would roam the oceans tens of millions of years later.  Even though our tooth is a cast, the serrations are still plainly visible.  These serrations would have allowed Carcharodontosaurus to shear through flesh, much like a steak knife cuts meat.  While Carcharodontosaurus lacked the bite force of Tyrannosaurus, the number and size of its teeth still made it a very efficient predator.


Carcharodontosaurus coexisted along one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered, Spinosaurus.  The remains of Carcharodontosaurus were found at roughly the same time as Spinosaurus, and were also scientifically described around the same time.  Unfortunately, they were destroyed in one of the Allied bombing raids that also claimed the partial skeleton of Spinosaurus.  New remains have since been discovered in Northern Africa, allowing for a more complete reconstruction.  What’s more, there may be two species of Carcharodontosaurus, based on differences in skull shape. 

One Carcharodontosaurus skull has an interesting wound on nasal bone.  The hole is circular, and there are also abnormal bony growths near the orbital area.   It is not known what caused these bone abnormalities.  Ideas range from a bite wound to an infection that invaded and modified the bone.  Such infection lesions are not unknown in larger theropods, and evidence of healed injuries is also relatively common.  Frequently, these injuries seem to the the result of intraspecific competition, or members of the same species fighting.  If this is the case, it would strongly argue against large theropods being pack hunters, as they appear to have frequently come into conflict with each other.

Image Credits:
Skeletal Comparison:Greg Paul, 1997.  Found via Carnivoraforum.  
Carcharodontosaurus

Life Restoration:By Nobu Tamura (http://spinops.blogspot.com) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons