Carcharodontosaurus: The Sharp-Toothed Lizard of the Late Cretaceous Era

Welcome to a journey back in time, to an era when the Carcharodontosaurus roamed the earth. This remarkable creature whose name means “sharp-toothed lizard” was a sight to behold. Its existence provides us with a unique window into the past and offers insights into a world that was dramatically different from our own.

Key Facts

Carcharodontosaurus pronunciationkaar-kr-uh-daan-tuh-saw-ruhs
Meaning of nameSharp-toothed lizard
Type SpeciesCarcharodontosaurus saharicus
When it Lived129.4 to 70.6 MYA
PeriodLate Cretaceous
EpochBarremian to Middle Campanian
Length49.0 ft
Height14.1 ft
Weight6.0 to 15.0 tons
MobilityMoved on two legs
First Discovery1924 by Charles Depéret and Justin Savornin
Location of first findAlgeria, Africa
First Described by1925 by Charles Depéret and Justin Savornin
HolotypeUCRC PV12

Carcharodontosaurus Origins, Taxonomy and Timeline

Carcharodontosaurus dinosaur
Nobu Tamura, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s start with the name, Carcharodontosaurus. This dinosaur’s name comes from the Greek words “karcharos” meaning “jagged” or “sharp,” “odōn” meaning “teeth,” and “sauros” meaning “lizard.” In essence, Carcharodontosaurus translates to “sharp-toothed lizard,” a fitting name for this carnivorous beast.

This carnivorous dinosaur belongs to the Theropod group, specifically the Carcharodontosauridae family. There are two known species of this dinosaur: Carcharodontosaurus saharicus and Carcharodontosaurus iguidensis.

The timeline of the Carcharodontosaurus is quite fascinating. This dinosaur lived during the Late Cretaceous period, specifically from the Barremian to the Middle Campanian epoch. This means that the Carcharodontosaurus roamed the earth between 129.4 and 70.6 million years ago.

Listen to pronunciation

Now, if you’re curious about how to pronounce this dinosaur’s name, we’ve got you covered. 

Discovery & Fossil Evidence

The first evidence of this dinosaur was discovered in 1924 in Algeria, Africa by French paleontologists Charles Depéret and Justin Savornin. They found two teeth that had unique characteristics that led them to describe a new taxon. The teeth were initially attributed to a species they named Megalosaurus saharicus.

Carcharodontosaurus skeleton
Matthew Deery, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Later, more complete fossils were found in various locations including Brazil, Egypt, Morocco, Niger, and Tunisia. These finds have helped to paint a more comprehensive picture and contributed to our understanding of its physical characteristics.

Carcharodontosaurus Size and Description

Before we delve into the specifics, let’s take a moment to appreciate the sheer magnitude of the Carcharodontosaurus. This dinosaur was a true titan of its time, an example of the incredible diversity and scale of life during the Late Cretaceous period.

Short Description of Carcharodontosaurus

This was a large theropod—a group of dinosaurs characterized by their hollow bones and three-toed limbs. Its body was built for hunting, as seen by its long, muscular tail for balance, powerful hind limbs for chasing down prey, and short but robust arms equipped with sharp claws. The head was massive, housing its most distinctive feature: its teeth. These were long, serrated, and incredibly sharp, perfect for tearing into the flesh of its unfortunate victims. As for its skin, no direct evidence exists but it’s generally believed that it was covered in scales like many theropods.

Size and Weight of Type Species

Carcharodontosaurus dinosaur
Slate Weasel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This was one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs that ever lived. According to the Natural History Museum, it could reach lengths of up to 15 meters (49 feet). However, the weight of this dinosaur is a topic of ongoing research and estimates vary widely. Some paleontologists suggest that it could have weighed between 6 to 15 tons. These figures, while impressive, should be taken with a grain of salt as they are based on extrapolations from incomplete fossil evidence. Nonetheless, there’s no denying that the Carcharodontosaurus was a colossal creature and a true testament to the awe-inspiring scale of life in the Late Cretaceous period.

The Dinosaur in Detail

The Carcharodontosaurus was a creature perfectly adapted to its environment and role as a top predator. Its most striking feature was, of course, its teeth. These were not just sharp; they were designed for maximum efficiency in tearing flesh, allowing it to feast on the abundant herbivorous dinosaurs of its time.

But the teeth were not the only remarkable feature of the Carcharodontosaurus. Its skull was uniquely designed with a series of fenestrae or openings that reduced weight while providing space for muscle attachment. This design allowed for a large, powerful jaw without the need for a heavy, cumbersome skull.

It also had a robust and muscular body with a long tail that helped it maintain balance while running at high speeds. Its hind limbs were powerful and built for speed while its smaller forelimbs were equipped with sharp claws for gripping prey. These features were combined with its keen senses and predatory instincts and made it a formidable hunter.

The Carcharodontosaurus in its Natural Habitat

This carnivore occupied a world vastly different from our own. The Late Cretaceous period was a time of warm climate and high sea levels. The landscape of Africa and South America was dominated by flowering plants—a relatively new development in Earth’s history—and the first true birds were taking to the skies.

As a carnivore, this dinosaur was at the top of the food chain. Its diet likely consisted of large herbivorous dinosaurs, such as the Ouranosaurus. Its sharp teeth and powerful jaws would have made short work of any prey unlucky enough to be caught. It was bipedal and moved on two powerful hind limbs. This as well as its long tail for balance would have made it a fast and agile predator capable of chasing down even the swiftest of prey.

It was not the only large predator in its environment. Fossils of this dinosaur have been found in the same areas as those of the Spinosaurus and the Sarcosuchus, suggesting that these three large carnivores may have been competitors. Despite this competition, the Carcharodontosaurus was likely the apex predator in its ecosystem, its size and power unmatched by any other creature.

Interesting Points about Carcharodontosaurus

  1. It had some of the largest known carnivorous dinosaur teeth, which could reach lengths of up to eight inches.
  2. Despite its size, it was likely a fast runner and estimates suggest it could reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
  3. It is known from several well-preserved specimens, including a nearly complete skull, which has provided valuable insights into its anatomy and lifestyle.
  4. It lived alongside several other large carnivorous dinosaurs, including the Spinosaurus and the Abelisaurus.
  5. This is one of the few dinosaurs whose discovery and description were significantly impacted by World War II, as the original fossils were destroyed during bombing raids.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

This apex predator shared its world with a captivating ensemble of contemporaries. Among these were the African dinosaurs Spinosaurus, Rugops, Paralititan, and Ouranosaurus. Each of these dinosaurs, whether predator or prey, contributed to the intricate dance of existence in their own unique ways.

The Spinosaurus might have been a formidable competitor to the Carcharodontosaurus, though its diet focused mainly on fish. Their potential encounters could have been a clash of titans, a testament to the survival of the fittest. Yet the Carcharodontosaurus, with its robust build and powerful jaws, was no less a force to be reckoned with.

The Rugops, another contemporary, presents an interesting contrast. While smaller than the Carcharodontosaurus, it was still a carnivore and their paths might have crossed in the pursuit of similar prey. This dynamic paints a vivid picture of the challenges and competition the Carcharodontosaurus faced in its daily life.

The Paralititan and Ouranosaurus were both considerably smaller and were likely part of the Carcharodontosaurus’s prey. These herbivores, while not as physically imposing, played a crucial role in the ecosystem and shaped the environment that the Carcharodontosaurus called home. Their existence and potential interactions with our dinosaur provide a glimpse into the complex food web of the time.

In this intricate web of relationships and interactions, the Carcharodontosaurus stood as a central figure, its life deeply intertwined with those of its contemporaries. This exploration offers a glimpse into the complex and fascinating world that these magnificent creatures inhabited.

List of All Dinosaurs

We have created a list of all dinosaurs we have covered here, sorted across the seven main groups of dinosaurs. We also include information about their type of diet, (omnivore, herbivore or carnivore) and the time they lived.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the name Carcharodontosaurus mean?

The name translates to “sharp-toothed lizard,” a fitting name for this carnivorous dinosaur with its long, serrated teeth.

When did this dinosaur live?

It lived during the Late Cretaceous period, specifically from the Barremian to the Middle Campanian epoch, which means it roamed the earth between 129.4 and 70.6 million years ago.

What did the Carcharodontosaurus eat?

As a carnivore, it likely preyed on large herbivorous dinosaurs. Its sharp teeth and powerful jaws would have allowed it to tear into the flesh of its prey with ease.

How big was it?

It was one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs that ever lived. It could reach lengths of up to 49 feet and weigh between 6 to 15 tons.

Where were fossils found?

Fossils have been found in various locations, including Algeria, Brazil, Egypt, Morocco, Niger, and Tunisia.


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