A skeleton with knife-sharp teeth, a long snout and curved claws about 30 cm long has been identified as a new and terrifying type of fish-eating dinosaur that ruled part of Africa about a hundred million years ago
A skeleton with knife-sharp teeth, a long snout and curved claws about 30 cm long has been identified as a new and formidable type of fish-eating dinosaur, which ruled part of Africa about a hundred million years ago.
Last week, the discovery was published in an article in the journal "Science." A paleontologist from the University of Chicago, Paul Serano, said that this is a species that was not known before. This is a creature about 12 meters long, which, according to the estimate, terrorized even the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex - the king of predatory dinosaurs, who lived mainly in North America.
"It had impressive dimensions," Serano said when he presented the dinosaur skeleton. He named it "Suchomimus tenerensis" a person standing next to him would see his knee in front of his eyes. It has similar dimensions to that of the T-Rex, and it is probably the skeleton of a dinosaur that has not yet reached its full size." A mature dinosaur, Serano estimates, would have been another meter tall.
Although the Suchomimus appeared to feed on fish, it was capable of threatening almost any creature in the vicinity. "With his arms and his jaws, he was able to overpower almost anyone," Serano said. "He was the ruling predator of his time."
The dinosaur resembles a T-Rex in terms of its general structure: two large hind legs, a silky tail, arms and a skull full of teeth. But the Suchomimus belongs to another dinosaur family, the spinosaurs, which lived mainly in the areas that are now the continents of Africa, Europe and South America, about 120 million years ago. At that time the T-Rex was just beginning to appear in North America. Skeletons of three of the spinosaur species have already been found, but Sarno insists that the Suchomimus is special.
"The discovery provides new explanations for the evolution and adaptation of dinosaurs from the spinosaur group," said Thomas Holtz, a researcher from the University of Maryland in an article in "Science
The fossil is found in Nigeria in central Africa, at the southwestern edge of the Sahara. This area had climatic conditions that were suitable for dinosaurs, and it was rich in vegetation, so that many species of dinosaurs were able to exist there.
The most striking features of the dinosaur are its length and its pointed mouth, which has about 100 teeth. At the end of the mouth there is a pointed protrusion, like an addition to the chin, known as a rosette, and where the largest teeth are located. The lower and upper teeth are fused together to ensure that the prey does not fall out of them. This structure is found in many animals that feed on fish.
"The structure of the mouth resembles a crocodile's mouth. It is designed for capture and ingestion," says Sarno. The teeth of the Suchomimus are also typical of alligators that feed on fish. They are curved and look like hooks, and are not intended for chewing. The thumbs were about 40 cm long each, and they had claws that were about 30 cm long, curved like a scythe. The two extra fingers that the animal had on each hand had shorter, less curved claws. "The hand is amazing. She was certainly perfect for fishing, for catching the big fish."
The circumstances of the death of the Suchomimus, whose skeleton has now been discovered, are unclear. It is speculated that he was swept into the river, overturned again and again, and then buried under the ground. It was found in the desert only after the winds blew away the sand that had covered it for the last 100 million years. From other fossils found nearby it is possible to learn that the area was abundant with vegetation, water and fish. At least four species of fish, up to 1.8 meters long, lived in the water and satisfied the hunger of the Suchomimus.
Giant crocodiles were also found. Sarno: "The species whose skeletons were the most common in the region was that of a very long crocodile. We collected a skull almost two meters long, and the crocodile was probably about 15 meters long." Most likely, the giant crocodile and the Suchomimus competed for the same large fish.
Above the area hovered flying dinosaurs, with a wingspan of about 3.5 meters, that sought prey. They overwhelmed him with strong teeth and claws. Fossils of these animals have also been found among the many species that lived in the area, but the enthusiastic Cerno believes that the Suchomimus dominated them all.
("Haaretz" 19/11/98) - The knowledge site was until 2002 part of the IOL portal from the Haaretz group