Bahariasaurus: Unveiling the Predator of the Bahariya Formation

Bahariasaurus: Unveiling the Predator of the Bahariya Formation

Bahariasaurus, a theropod dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous Period, represents a significant chapter in the evolutionary history of predatory dinosaurs. Discovered within the confines of the Bahariya Formation in Egypt, this dinosaur provides a window into the diverse ecosystems that once flourished in what is now a vast desert.

Originating from a region rich in dinosaur fossils, Bahariasaurus, or “Lizard of the Bahariya Formation,” highlights the ecological dynamics of the Late Cretaceous Sahara. With a timeline stretching from 99.6 to 66.0 million years ago, this carnivorous dinosaur navigated a world undergoing profound changes, including shifting climates and evolving landscapes.

Bahariasaurus Key Facts

Meaning of nameLizard of the Bahariya Formation
Type SpeciesBahariasaurus ingens
When it Lived100.5 to 89.8 MYA
PeriodLate Cretaceous
EpochCenomanian and Turonian
Length36.0 to 40.0 feet
HeightApproximately 10.0 feet
Weight4.0 to 4.8 tons
MobilityMoved on two legs
First Discovery1911 by Richard Markgraf and Ernst Stromer
Described by1934 by Ernst Stromer
Holotype1912 VIII 62
Location of first findBahariya Formation, Egypt
Also found inNiger, controversial findings

Bahariasaurus Origins, Taxonomy and Timeline

The etymology of Bahariasaurus is derived from the Bahariya Oasis coupled with the Greek suffix “saurus” for lizard. This nomenclature not only signifies its discovery location but also relates it to other dinosaurs.

Illustration of Bahariasaurus, a large theropod dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period. Bahariasaurus, estimated to be around 11 meters long, was a carnivorous, bipedal predator. The dinosaur is depicted with a muscular body, long tail, and powerful limbs, reflecting its role as an apex predator during its time.

Belonging to the theropod group, this predator is classified within the bahariasaurid. The genus Bahariasaurus has only its type species Bahariasaurus ingens

Spanning during Late Cretaceous Period, specifically from the Cenomanian to the Turonian, Bahariasaurus existed in the earlier end of the range between 100.5 to 89.8 million years ago. This places it within the era of the end of the dinosaurs, where it would have seen many ecological and biological changes.

Discovery & Fossil Evidence

Historical photograph of Ernst Stromer, a German paleontologist, standing beside a large dinosaur fossil. Stromer is known for his discovery of Bahariasaurus and other significant dinosaur fossils in the early 20th century. The image showcases Stromer in his distinctive period attire, emphasizing the scale of the fossil he discovered.
Ernst Stromer next to a femur of Bahariasaurus
Anonymous, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The journey to uncovering this new species began in the early 1910s amidst the sands of Egypt’s Bahariya Formation. Led by the explorers Markgraf and Stromer, this expedition marked the first chapter in the story of Bahariasaurus. The holotype was unearthed in 1911 and laid the groundwork for future studies on this magnificent creature. Ernst Stromer, a name synonymous with paleontological discoveries in Egypt, formally described the type species in 1934, highlighting its significance as potentially the largest known theropod of its time.

Tragically, the original and only specimen was destroyed during an air raid on the night of 23/24 April 1944. The loss of this specimen in World War II deprived scientists of invaluable data that could have further illuminated the life and times of this ancient predator. Despite this setback, the initial findings and descriptions provided by Stromer have continued to inspire and inform dinosaur research.

Illustration of a Bahariasaurus vertebra, a large theropod dinosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period. This fossilized vertebra highlights the intricate bone structure and size of the dinosaur, providing valuable insights into its anatomy and classification.
Ernst von Stromer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Subsequent to the initial discovery, remains thought to be associated with Bahariasaurus were found in the Farak Formation of Niger. Described by de Lapparent in 1960, these remains included parts of the tail vertebrae from what appeared to be different individuals. However, the connection of these remains to Bahariasaurus has been questioned. Some experts suggest they may belong to another unrelated theropod. This uncertainty adds an element of mystery to the study of this predator, prompting ongoing research and debate within the scientific community.

Bahariasaurus Size and Description

Short Description of Bahariasaurus

Bahariasaurus is distinguished from other theropods by its formidable size and predatory prowess. This ancient carnivore had a streamlined body, powerful legs, and sharp, menacing teeth. Together, it made it a force to be reckoned with in the Late Cretaceous ecosystems. Its physical attributes suggest a creature built for speed and strength. Its long tail, much like other theropods, would have served as a counterbalance to aid in its agility and maneuverability. Meanwhile, its large, forward-facing eyes hint at a predator with keen vision adept at detecting movement across the Cretaceous landscapes it once roamed.

Size and Weight of Type Species

Illustration of Bahariasaurus, a large theropod dinosaur, compared to the size of a human. Bahariasaurus, a bipedal carnivore, lived during the Cretaceous period. The image highlights its significant size and formidable appearance, emphasizing its place as a top predator in its ecosystem.
ONo45, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bahariasaurus is often cited as one of the largest theropods. It rivaled the size of the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex and its contemporary, Carcharodontosaurus. Estimates of its length range from 36.0 to 40.0 feet, placing it among the giants of the dinosaur world. This formidable predator is thought to have weighed in at approximately 4.0 to 4.8 tons. These dimensions not only underscore the sheer physical dominance of Bahariasaurus but also its role as a top predator within its environment.

The Dinosaur in Detail

Bahariasaurus distinguishes itself through several unique features. Its skeletal structure, particularly the configuration of its vertebrae and limbs, suggests a highly efficient predator. Moreover, it was likely capable of rapid acceleration and agile maneuvers. Its build hints at a creature adept at dominating its environment, leveraging its physical prowess to secure its place atop the food chain. These vertebrae were uniquely sized with proportions unlike many of its relatives. One vertebra measured at 8.9 inches long–the longest of any theropod.

Its relationship to other theropods is still mostly unknown. It has been thought to be a tyrannosaurid, carcharaodontosaurid, or a ceratosaurid. It has been given its own family due to the mysterious nature of how it relates to these predators. Deltadromeus has been suggested to be synonymous with Bahariasaurus as a juvenile form. It is possible that Deltadromeus, Bahariasaurus, Aoniraptor, and Gualicho form a family of their own. 

Interesting Points about Bahariasaurus

Bahariasaurus in its Natural Habitat

Illustration depicting a vibrant scene from the Bahariya Formation, featuring various dinosaurs like Bahariasaurus and other fauna from the Cretaceous period. The image showcases a dynamic interaction at a water source, highlighting the diverse ecosystem and the behaviors of these prehistoric creatures.
The Royal Society, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This massive predator navigated an environment that was both lush and competitive. The physical characteristics of this theropod hint at a creature supremely adapted to its surroundings. It shared this landscape with three other giant theropods: the Allosauroid Carcharodontosaurus, and the Spinosaurids Spinosaurus and finally the Sigilmassasaurus (the latter’s validity as a separate genus being a subject of ongoing debate). This congregation of apex predators in a single geographic location suggests a complex ecosystem where niche partitioning was essential for survival. Such partitioning would have allowed each species to exploit different food sources, behaviors, and territories, minimizing direct competition and enabling their coexistence.

This ecological arrangement highlights the adaptability and ecological intelligence of Bahariasaurus and its peers as they navigated the challenges of living in close proximity to other top predators. The ability to coexist with other giants of the Cretaceous Period speaks to the evolutionary success of Bahariasaurus. The study of these creatures and their habitats offers invaluable insights into the complexity of Cretaceous life and the interactions of competing top predators.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

In the ancient landscapes where Bahariasaurus roamed, the air was thick with the tension of survival. This carnivorous dinosaur towered over many of its contemporaries and cast a long shadow over the terrain it claimed as its own. Among its neighbors was Rugops from Niger Cenomanian deposits. However, it was smaller and far less intimidating. It likely lived a life of constant vigilance to avoid becoming a meal for the larger carnivore. The interactions between Bahariasaurus and Rugops were likely a matter of life and death for the latter.

Paralititan was a rather large sauropod and adults sepcimens might have been too big for our Bahariasaurus. Spinosaurus was also part of the landscape, and it was lmuch arger than Bahariasaurus. However, it was not likely in competition for feeding purpose, with its possible fish-based diet.

These dynamics both highlight Bahariasaurus’s role as a dominant predator as well as underline the interconnectedness of all these Cretaceous giants. Each one playing a pivotal role in the story of life millions of years ago.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was this dinosaur discovered?

It was discovered in 1911 by Richard Markgraf and later described by Ernst Stromer in 1934.

What does its name mean?

The name translates to “Lizard of the Bahariya Formation,” reflecting its discovery location.

What type of dinosaur is it?

It is a theropod. It has been given its own family, Bahariasauridae, due to its confusing relationship with other theropods.

Where was it found?

The first fossils were found in the Bahariya Formation in Egypt, with additional finds later in Niger.

How old are the fossils of this dinosaur?

The fossils date back to the Early Cenomian in the Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 100.5 to 89.8 million years ago.

What did it eat?

As a carnivore, it preyed on other dinosaurs and possibly smaller animals.


The information in this article is based on various sources, drawing on scientific research, fossil evidence, and expert analysis. The aim is to provide a comprehensive and accurate overview of Bahariasaurus. However, please be aware that our understanding of dinosaurs and their world is constantly evolving as new discoveries are made.

Article last fact checked: Joey Arboleda, 02-13-2024

Featured Image Credit: Foolp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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