'Fierce-eyed' grandfather of T-rex found in Sahara

The remains of two meat-eating dinosaurs have been unearthed in the Sahara desert where they once terrorised their prey.

The fossilised bones of the two dinosaurs were excavated during an expedition in 2000 but it is only now that scientists have been able to identify and name them as a newly discovered pair of carnivorous species that lived 110 million years ago.

One of the new dinosaurs is a short-snouted creature that grew to about 25 feet long. Scientists have called it Kryptops palaios, or "old hidden face", because of the horny covering on its snout.

Kryptops may have lived on dead or dying animals in the manner of a modern hyena. Like later members of its group, the abelisaurids of South America and India, Kryptops had short, armoured jaws and small teeth, which were well designed for gobbling guts and gnawing. The other dinosaur, a contemporary of similar size, has been named Eocarcharia dinops or "fierce-eyed dawn shark", because of its blade-shaped teeth and prominent bony eyebrow. Unlike Kryptops, its teeth were more suited to attacking live prey and severing body parts, the scientists said.

Carcharodontosaurids, the group to which Eocarcharia belongs, gave rise to the largest predators on the southern continents, which were as big, if not bigger than a T-rex. Eocarcharia would have made a terrifying adversary. A swollen bony brow over its eye gave it a menacing appearance and may have been used as a battering ram against rivals for mating rights.

The two dinosaurs were discovered by a Bristol University student, Steve Brusatte, who was part of an expedition led by Paul Serano, the renowned fossil hunter at the University of Chicago who has made a number of important finds in north Africa.

"For those of us who work on the dinosaurs of the southern continents, uncovering these fossils is like finding a Neanderthal relative to our own species," Mr Brusatte said.

"They are the earliest records of both major carnivore groups that would go on to dominate Africa, South America and India during the next 50 million years of the Cretaceous period," he added.

Until now little has been known about the early evolution of these two major groups of predatory dinosaur that dominated the southern continents. The latest discoveries reveal that Kryptops, Eocarcharia and another dinosaur – Suchomimus, a large, fish-eating dinosaur that walked on two legs – all lived together and would have made a fearsome troika for any plant-eater to face, Mr Brusatte said.

"It is clear from their anatomy that they were eating different things. Suchomimus ate fish, Kryptops ate smaller animals and Eocarcharia was the top predator of its day," he said.

"Just like in the African savannah today, lions, cheetahs and hyenas must eat different food to survive side by side. It is fascinating to see this in a 110 million-year-old ecosystem."

The fossils found included the jaw bone, pelvic girdle, vertebrae and ribs of Kryptops and several cranial bones and isolated teeth of Eocarcharia. They were recovered from the Elrhaz Formation along the western edge of the Té*éré Desert in Niger in a place known as Gadoufaoua.

Mr Serano and Mr Brusatte formally described the fossils in a study published this week in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?