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Carcharodontosaurus Genus

"Carcharodontosaurus was one of the fiercest predators of the Late Cretaceous, rivaling many other carnivores. Read the complete guide!"

The Carcharodontosaurus genus (pronounced kɑːrkəroʊˌdɒntoʊˈsɔːrəs, or car-karo-donto-saurus) was a massive carnivorous therapod dinosaur existing during the Late Cretaceous during the Cenomanian age. With only two species, it’s commonly compared to Spinosaurus, Allosaurus, Giganotosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus. 

In this complete guide on the Carcharodontosaurus genus, you’ll learn everything scientists and we know about this Saurichian group of therapods. You’ll find out when the genus was discovered, how it got its name, what these carnivores ate, and much more!

 

CarcharodontosaurusImage courtesy of Nobu Tamura

TOC

History of the Carcharodontosaurus Discovery

Let’s start our Carcharodontosaurus guide with details on when it was discovered. After all, we wouldn’t know much about these carnivorous dinosaurs if we didn’t find the remains. Here’s what paleontologists have located thus far.

Where does the name Carcharodontosaurus come from?

When the first remains were found, the team named the species Megalosaurus saharicus. They believed it to be part of the Megalosaurus genus, within a subgenus called Dryptosaurus. In 1931, Ernst Stromer compared remains in Egypt to the teeth of the Great White Shark, known scientifically as Carcharodon. 

Carcharodontosaurus

📖Interesting Fact📖:The name Carcharodontosaurus means jagged/sharp (karchar[os]) tooth (odōn) lizard (saurus) = sharp-toothed lizard.

When was Carcharodontosaurus discovered?

The first Carcharodontosaurus remains were discovered in the Bahariya Formation of Egypt in 1914, although it would only be identified later and classified by Stromer in 1931. It was first thought that the initial fossils were found in 1924 when Depéret and Savornin named it Megalosaurus saharicus.

Details of the Discoveries

It all started in 1914 when paleontologists and scientists worked at the Bahariya Formation of Egypt, where they found rocks from the Cenomanian Age in the Late Cretaceous period. While many remains were found, many of these fossils would only receive names at a later stage. That’s why this date isn’t used as the first Carcharodontosaurus discovery.

Continental intercalaire Formation – 1924

The official first discovery happened in 1924. While working at the Continental intercalaire Formation of Algeria, a team discovered two teeth with unique characteristics. Depéret and Savornin sat down and penned a new taxon in 1925, calling the species Megalosaurus saharicus.

Carcharodontosaurus
Image source: Newell, Andrew & Kirby, G.A. & Sorensen, James & Milodowski, Antoni. (2015). The Cretaceous Continental Intercalaire in central Algeria: Subsurface evidence for a fluvial to aeolian transition and implications for the onset of aridity on the Saharan Platform.

Evaluating the Bahariya Formation Fossils – 1931

Ernst Stromer was a prominent German paleontologist that visited Egypt when he heard about the discoveries in the Bahariya Formation. He is most famous for finding the first Spinosaurus remains. However, he’s also the one responsible for the naming of Carcharodontosaurus.

Studying the skull, skeleton, and other partial remains, Stromer was fascinated with how the teeth resembled those of the Great White Shark. Its scientific name is Carcharodon. He believed it didn’t belong in the Megalosaurus genus, thus creating a new taxon genus in 1931 called Carcharodontosaurus. However, he kept the species name saharicus established by Depéret and Savornin. Hence, C. saharicus was officially recognized in 1931.

Carcharodontosaurus
Source image

Algerian border – 1995

With World War II breaking out, the fossils that Stromer was studying were destroyed. No more details of the Carcharodontosaurus genus could be expanded. However, 1995 saw Paul Sereno lead a team called the Kem Kem Group towards the Algerian border. It was close to the area where Depéret and Savornin had discovered the first teeth.

This time, they found the skull with more teeth set within it. The teeth matched those found by Depéret and Savornin in 1924, while the skull matched Stromer’s descriptions in 1931. It was then that they realized they once again had C. saharicus remains and returned to studying this carnivorous dinosaur.

Carcharodontosaurus
Source image

Echkar Formation of Niger – 2007

After the remains of Carcharodontosaurus iguidensis were discovered in the Echkar Formation, Brusatte and Sereno indicated that the skull of C. saharicus found by Sereno’s team in 1995 would serve as the neotype of the genus. The skull that Stromer discovered in 1931 would be the holotype.

Carcharodontosaurus

💡Terminology💡: A holotype refers to the specimen or remains that set the characteristics and name for the species. A neotype becomes a replacement or sets new traits from new remains when the holotype is lost or destroyed.

The main differences noted by the team between C. iguidensis and C.saharicus were in the braincase and maxilla.

Sorting out the Taxonomy – 2016

Chiarenza and Cau set out a formal discussion on the Carcharodontosaurus genus in 2016. After further evaluation of the holotype and neotype remains of Stromer and Sereno, they concluded that the fossils were very similar. The only explanation paleontologist Mickey Mortimer had for the maxillary interdental plates morphology was possible damage to the neotype. 

The authors also suggested that perhaps the C. iguidensis remains discovered at the Echkar Formation actually belonged to the Sigilmassasaurus genus, but it’s not been accepted by the scientific community and is still under debate. For now, it remains a C. iguidensis holotype.

Carcharodontosaurus

Carcharodontosaurus Brief Overview

Here are some quick facts about Carcharodontosaurus, which will be helpful for students and children.

Cacharodontosaurus Fact Card

Carcharodontosaurus

Carcharodontosaurus Scientific Classification

Here’s the official scientific classification for Carcharodontosaurus as it stands today:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Clade: Dinosauria
  • Order: Saurischia
  • Suborder: Theropoda
  • Family: Carcharodontosauridae
  • Subfamily: Carcharodontosaurinae
  • Genus: Carcharodontosaurus


Detailed Carcharodontosaurus Description

Did you come here for specific information on Carcharodontosaurus dinosaurs? We’re about to hit our stride with detailed information that’s available in scientific journals and papers. This section provides more insight into several aspects uncovered from the remains of this large carcharodontosaurid theropod.

Carcharodontosaurus
Image from Jurassic World Evolution game

Size of Carcharodontosaurus species

The Carcharodonotosaurs were among the heaviest and largest dinosaurs. Many paleontologists have suggested that some may have matched or surpassed Tyrannosaurus, Giganotosaurus, and Spinosaurus in size. On average, paleontologists believe they weighed between 6.2 to 15 tons and ranged between 12 and 13 meters. 

Here are some estimated sizes from scientists in the past:

  • Gregory S. Paul (2012): 
    • C. saharicus – 12 meters long, 6 tons
    • C. iguidensis – 10 meters long, 4 tons
  • Molina-Pérez & Larramendi (2012):
    • C. saharicus – 13 meters long, 8 tons
    • C. iguidensis – 11 meters long, 5 tons

Carcharodontosaurus
Image courtesy of KoprX

Cranium (lizard or bird brain?)

The skull characteristics of Carcharodonotosaurus are derived mainly from the C. saharicus neotype remains. For its massive size, it actually has a relatively small brain. Scientists theorize that it has to do with natural evolution from its ancestors. While other dinosaur predators developed larger skulls and brains, it seems that growth was slower for this genus.

Carcharodontosaurus

📖Interesting Fact📖: As a comparison, the Tyrannosaurus rex had a brain 150% larger than Carcharodontosaurus. Due to this, many mistakenly believe T. Rex was more intelligent. However, the development of the brain usually resulted from usage and function and was not related to size.

For example, you may find that some dinosaurs used one of their senses more in a specific environment. The part of the brain that managed that ability would grow in size. Since Carcharodonotosaurus had a large optic nerve, it suggests that it had incredible eyesight. The only issue is with the position of the eyes, which would hamper this skill.

Now, most therapods had brains that were similar to modern birds, those which we call avian dinosaurs. One mysterious discovery is that Carcharodonotosaurus had a more reptilian, or crocodilian, brain due to its size and shape. It had impressive senses of smell and hearing, which would have rivaled those of T.Rex. 

Due to these characteristics, it seems the Carcharodonotosaurus had a more primitive lineage that set it apart from the other Avian therapods.

Carcharodontosaurus
Image source: Brusatte, Stephen. (2009). A new species of Carcharodontosaurus (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Cenomanian of Niger and a revision of the genus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Inner Ear and Brain

Let’s take a closer look at the brain and inner ear of the Carcharodontosaurus.

The most we know about it stems from research that  Hans C. E. Larsson performed and published in 2001. It classified the forebrain section which started closest to the snout of the dinosaur. The midbrain followed, and it had a 45° angle towards the rear of the skull. With about a 40° angle from the midbrain, the hindbrain was parallel to the forebrain.

In general, Larsson felt that the brain of Allosaurus fragilis matched Carcharodontosaurus the most. It’s due to the cerebellum’s volume ratio to the rest of the skull that he felt it had more of a reptilian than an avian brain.

When it comes to the inner ear, there was a triangular design thanks to the semicircular canals. This design, called subtriangular, is mostly present in turtles, lizards, and Allosaurs, but you won’t find them in birds. It further supports the notion that Carcharodontosaurus was more reptilian in nature than most of the other therapods that birds stem from.

Lower Jaw

Most of the lower jaw features are based on the C. iguidensis holotype, but it’s believed to be mostly similar in nature to the other species. For instance, the anterior end has a square design thanks to the anteroventral and anterodorsal processes. 

This, together with the anteroventral flange, makes the Carcharodontosaurus very similar to Giganotosaurus, Acrocanthosaurus, and Tyrannotitan in many regards. On the largest foramina, there were several exit grooves, which is important when compared to other dinosaurs. The most vital one is the ventrally deflected vascular groove, which is what matches Giganotosaurus and Neovenator. However, it’s this aspect that differs from Sinraptor, Allosaurus, and many other therapods.

Dentition

Giganotosaurus and both Carcharodontosaurus species had similar crowns on their teeth. The blade design was only slightly curved, and there were usually a few enamel wrinkles. These wrinkles were also present in Tyrannosaurids, but not to such a degree. It seems they’re more widespread in Carcharodontosaurids, as can be seen in Tyrannotitan and Giganotosaurus.

Carcharodontosaurus
Image source: Brusatte, Stephen. (2009). A new species of Carcharodontosaurus (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Cenomanian of Niger and a revision of the genus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

How Many Teeth Did Carcharodontosaurus Have?

It’s estimated that the Carcharodontsaurus had about 32 teeth. Even with such a massive mouth, it seems the jaws were relatively weak.

Carcharodontosaurus

📖Interesting Fact📖: The bite force was about 3,000 psi (pounds per square inch), while a Tyrannosaurus measured at 12,800 and Spinosaurus 4,200 psi.

That doesn’t mean the Carcharodontosaurus was a poor hunter. The teeth were serrated, which means the carnivore would work on different hunting strategies to sink these blades into its prey. Once they punctured the skin, veins, and organs, the victim would quickly bleed out.

Carcharodontosaurus

Image source: Brusatte, Stephen. (2009). A new species of Carcharodontosaurus (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Cenomanian of Niger and a revision of the genus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Postcranium

One important aspect that Paul Sereno and Stephen Brusatte discussed in the 2007 Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology is the postcranium area, notably, the cervical centrum. While researching the remains they found, they discovered the cervical centrum looked similar to those discovered in Morocco and Egypt. The latter of course relates to Stromer’s notes.

Carcharodontosaurus

💡Terminology💡:  The cervical centrum refers to the main supportive structure in the vertebral column that the spinal disc cushions.

The main part of the discussion is how Carcharodontosaurus relates to other carcharodontosaurids and therapods in this regard. For instance, the cervical proportions were broad and the ventral keel was well-developed.

Carcharodontosaurus

⚠️Take Note ⚠️: This seems to be a unique characteristic that sets it apart from other Allosaurids.

While this postcranium element may also have been present in Giganotosaurus, Acrocanthosaurus, and Mapusaurus, there were subcircular posterior articular facets on the centra. Also, these dinosaurs had ventral keels that weren’t as strong as Carcharodontosaurus.

Carcharodontosaurus

Image source: Brusatte, Stephen. (2009). A new species of Carcharodontosaurus (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Cenomanian of Niger and a revision of the genus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

How fast was Carcharodontosaurus?

Carcharodontosaurus

📖Interesting Fact📖: Thanks to its massive, powerful legs, the Carcharodontosaurus could run about 20 miles per hour if it really needed to.

However, scientists believe its body mass wouldn’t permit it to do so under normal circumstances.  

The speed was determined by analyzing fossil footprints discovered in Cretaceous formations. Also, lung tissue samples revealed air sacs, used by the predator to run faster and for longer when chasing prey.

Carcharodontosaurus
Image from Jurassic World Evolution game

Paleobiological Aspects of the Carcharodontosaurus

While the above descriptions already cover some biological information about Carcharodontosaurus, paleobiological indications focus more on the eating habits and any unique abnormalities of the genus. Most of its cousins also had short arms, so this wouldn’t really be considered ‘unique’.

Feeding Habits

First and foremost, Carcharodontosaurus was a carnivore and very much a predator. While it didn’t have the jaw strength of Tyrannosaurus, it could easily lift dinosaurs that weighed up to 424 kg. Scientists determined this amount by studying the bone-crushing jaw strength, its center of mass, and its neck.

That means it could pick a fight with most sauropods and even other predators. We’ll cover a bit later which dinosaurs lives in the same regions as Carcharodontosaurus, which will give an idea of how much competition it had in the area. However, there’s a good chance it was also a scavenger, feeding off the remains left behind by a Spinosaurus or other top hunters of that time.

Peculiar Abnormalities

We’ve already indicated a few biological elements that set it apart from other therapods and carcharodontosaurids. One other aspect worth mentioning is a puncture found in the nasal cavity of one of the skulls. The antorbital rim also had a bone that formed an abnormal projection. However, these were abnormalities discovered in specific remains and don’t necessarily reflect on the entire genus.

Carcharodontosaurus
Image source

Environmental Elements

While it’s a fun ride to learn more about the physical aspects of dinosaurs, the education lies within their environments. You discover what other dino species were around, as well as the biomes that they enjoyed living in. Here are some exciting environmental details about Carcharodontosaurus.

Living Grounds

As with several vicious predators, Carcharodontosaurus lived in the area that is today a southern part of Africa. With South America breaking apart from the African continent at that time, many of its relatives from that area look almost like it. Fossil remains of Sarcosuchus and Spinosaurus have been discovered in the same area.It loved humid and warm regions with plenty of water, such as rivers and lakes. There may have been rainforests in the places that are dry today, even across some of the current deserts.

Carcharodontosaurus

📖Interesting Fact📖: Carcharodontosaurus may have hunted for prey within plains and marshlands.

T-Rex of Africa or African Velociraptor?

While we have some information about Carcharodontosaurus from fossils and theories, there’s still much that remains hidden. Due to its shape, appearance, and size, some people call it the T-Rex of Africa. Sure, there may be a few similarities, but there are also many aspects that set it apart from the apex predator.

The base similarities are that both the Carcharodontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus had large skulls, small arms, a counterbalancing tail, and massive legs. T-Rex was bulkier and much slower, though, and had more jaw strength. Its neck was also not as flexible, meaning it was less agile.

Carcharodontosaurus

That means that Carcharodontosaurus had faster sprinting speed and could maneuver quicker on the hunting field. While there’s no support for the claim, it’s also believed they hunted together in packs, unlike the solitary T-Rex. Based on these descriptions, one could see it as an African Velociraptor, instead.

Another feature that sets Carcharodontosaurus apart from T-Rex is that it had longer arms. While Tyrannosaurus never developed longer arms as it evolved, Carcharodontosaurus may have used its forearms to grasp larger prey while feeding, such as sauropods. However, it may have left the hunting and killing to larger predators and then fed on the carrion afterward.

Other dinosaurs that lived among the Carcharodontosaurus dinosaurs

Two prominent predators the Carcharodontosaurus shared the land with were Spinosaurus and Sarchosuchus.

Carcharodontosaurus

🤣 Fun Moment 🎉: We often joke here at Ancient Beasts that if man and dinosaurs really did live together, then Sarcosuchus would have been the crocodile god, Sebek, worshipped by the ancient Egyptians.

Back to the point, it also lived among common ornithischians, such as Ouranosaurus. Sauropods you may have found at that time include Aegyptosaurus and Paralititan, while Rugops was the roaming abelisaurid. Other related predators it may have had to contend with were Deltadromeus, Sauroniops, and Bahariasaurus.

When did Carcharodontosaurus go extinct?

The second age in the Late Cretaceous period is called the Turonian age. While we may not know as yet what caused it, the Carcharodontosaurus started to disappear and give way to predators that became larger after it was gone. In Africa, abelisaurids took over, while Tyrannosaurus reigned in the Asian and North American regions of Pangea. 

Some remains were found in Brazil that paleontologists believe is a Carcharodontosaur that survived into the Late Cretaceous. It could have been after South America broke apart from the African continent. However, we don’t have sufficient details as yet to prove anything.

Carcharodontosaurus
Image courtesy of Matthew Deery

Species within Carcharodontosaurus

There are only two official Carcharodontosaurus species, namely, C. saharicus and C. iguidensis. We’ll cover each one separately in more detail within Dinosaur Species

Games and Movies that feature Carcharodontosaurus

The name Carcharodontosaurus may not roll off the tongue so easily, so you’re forgiven if you think it isn’t part of the popular dinosaur culture. However, it actually features in several movies and games. Here are some classic titles that have this wonderful ancient beast:

  • Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis: available as one of the dinosaurs in this theme-park game
  • Jurassic Park Builder: another theme park builder where you can incubate the Carcharodontosaurus from DNA
  • Dinosaur King: a Japanese arcade fighting game
  • Ark: Survival Evolved: While it may not be available in the original game, you can install it with the Jurassic Park Mod.
  • Jurassic World Evolution 1 and 2: You can unlock it when you find its DNA, either in the base game or DLC.
  • Monsters Resurrected: fights against a Spinosaurus in this TV series
  • Primeval, Series 3: British TV series that has the therapod in one of the background images
  • Lost World, Planet Dinosaur: two Carcharodontosaurs fight each other before the winner battles a Spinosaurus, a popular theme in shows. 
  • 100 Million B.C: A movie with a Carcharodontosaurus called Big Red
  • Toy Story That Time Forgot: Reptillus Maximus, the Battlesaurs champion, is a Carcharodontosaurus.

Carcharodontosaurus
Image courtesy of NoahDLC

Common Questions about Carcharodontosaurus

While our detailed article should cover everything you need to know about this genus, there are plenty of other questions people often ask about Carcharodontosaurus. We’ve covered the answers here so you don’t need to read our entire article for it. If you have any other queries, please let us know.

What family is Carcharodontosaurus?

The Carcharodontosaurus has a family name that was named after the genus, namely, Carcharodontosauridae. Ernst Stromer, the German paleontologist who was the first to give the fossils an intensive study, is responsible for naming the dinosaur family. The ancient beast is also known as a carcharodontosaurid therapod predator.

There are subfamilies and genera within this family that you may recognize, such as Giganotosaurus, Tyrannotitan, Lusovenator, and Mapusaurus. Even the recently discovered Meraxes gigas forms part of it, with a recent update on why scientists believed therapod carnivore arms were so short.

Is Carcharodontosaurus related to Giganotosaurus?

Since both form part of the Carcharodontosauridae, you can consider the Giganotosaurus a distant cousin to the Carcharodontosaurus. As a matter of fact, the Giganotosaurid has the most complete fossils of the entire family. Its name means giant southern lizard, and it’s believed that Carcharodontosaurus was slightly smaller if not the same size.

Is Carcharodontosaurus related to Allosaurus?

To understand the relationship between the Allosaur and Carcharodontosaur, we have to take a trip back in time and look at the taxonomy. Firstly, the Carcharodontosauridae family falls under the Carcharodontosauria clade. This clade and the Allosauridae family both fall under the Allosauria clade. 

The most important aspect to acknowledge is the period of existence. The Allosaurs lived during the Late Jurassic, while Carcharodontosaurus lived during the Late Cretaceous. They would not have known or seen each other, having existed in two different periods. However, scientists believe Allosaurs were descendants of Carcharodontosaurs.

Is Carcharodontosaurus related to Tyrannosaurus Rex?

No, T-Rex and Carcharodontosaurus were not related. For one, they lived in completely different areas during the Cretaceous. Tyrannosaurus Rex was in North America and Asia, while Carcharodontosaurus inhabited the space now known as Africa. They would never have seen each other or engaged in combat. 

There is only a slight connection, but you have to go far back in the taxonomy to find it. There’s a clade called Avetheropoda, which means bird therapods. Within them, you have the sub-groups called Coelurosauria and Carnosauria. Tyrannosaurus Rex forms part of the former, while Carcharodontosaurus and other Allosaurids are in the latter.

Was Carcharodontosaurus bigger than Giganotosaurus?

It’s challenging for paleontologists to just who was the biggest when it comes to Spinosaurus, Giganotosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, and Carcharodontosaurus. When it comes to the last one, the dinosaur seems to be more agile and flexible, which means it may have been smaller than Giganotosaurus. However, some fossil remains show that some of them may have been the same size, if not slightly bigger.

Is Carcharodontosaurus a Carnosaur?

The entire Carcharodontosaurus genus and family falls under the super-group, Carnosauria. As a matter of fact, paleontologists believe the largest meat-eating dinosaurs are carcharodontosaurids. As you’ve already seen, Carnosauria contains popular names like Spinosaurus, Giganotosaurus, Mapusaurus, and Tyrannotitan.

Who would win Spinosaurus vs Carcharodontosaurus?

This discussion is merely hypothetical, asked by gamers who pit these species against each other in titles like Jurassic World Evolution 2. When you ask a paleontologist, the vote seems to favor Carcharodontosaurus. It had a long tail and was incredibly flexible. With the ability to avoid a lethal bite, it could beat Spinosaurus in a conflict. Its serrated teeth were also an advantage.

Is Carcharodontosaurus in Jurassic World?

When referring to the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies, Carcharodontosaurus doesn’t feature at all. However, it’s available in the Jurassic World Evolution games and many other dino titles. We actually found an interesting YouTube video that sums up its appearance in games.

What is the bite force of a Carcharodontosaurus?

The Carcharodontosaurus may have grown to a massive size, but its jaw strength wasn’t as strong as some of the other carcharodontosaurids. The bite force was meager at 3,000 psi, which was still strong enough to take down a sauropod and crush some bones. We say meager, as Spinosaurus and Tyrannosaurus come in at 4,200 and 12,800, respectively.

What did the Carcharodontosaurus eat?

It was a carnivore and would hunt the land for large dinosaurs to kill and feast on. Carcharodontosaurus was powerful enough to kill a sauropod, and could also battle its competitors for its prey. However, it would also be a scavenger at times, eating the remains of leftover bodies.

Why did Carcharodontosaurus go extinct?

Scientists believed that the Carcharodontosaurus vanished towards the second age of the Late Cretaceous period. Pangea was breaking up into large continents, and the supercontinent Gondwanaland became flooded as sea levels rose. With a new ecosystem and the megafauna changing, vulnerable predators and other habitats simply became extinct at this time.

Shaun M Jooste

Shaun M Jooste

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