'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
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star