📸 Carcharodontosaurus (Mini Museum)
Deadly, gigantic, and hungry, the Carcharodontosaurus was one of the most fearsome predators of the mid-Cretaceous. This massive theropod is sometimes nicknamed “The Moroccan T. Rex,” though it was really related to the even larger Giganotosaurus.
Carcharodontosaurus is estimated to have grown as large as 44 feet long with a weight of 16 tons, with a terrifying set of serrated teeth to match, which it used to rule Morocco’s Kem Kem River Delta. In this predator-dominated environment, Carchodontosaurus lived for five million years during the Late Cretaceous, fending off attack from rival predators.
📸 Carcharodontosaurus skull
Fossils from Carcharodontosaurus were first discovered in 1924 when two teeth were found in Algeria. Other fossils were uncovered in the region but ended up destroyed during the Second World War. In 1995, parts of a new skull were uncovered in Morocco during an expedition headed by paleontologist Paul Sereno, which put estimates of the creature’s head at almost 5 feet long. Housed in this massive skull were powerful jaws of serrated teeth that helped Carcharodontosaurus tear and shred its meals. The size of its maw also allowed it to grab and trap prey easily.
Carcharodontosaurus is closely related to Giganotosaurus, another staggering theropod in the wider Carcharodontosauridae family. Their discoveries happened in close proximity to each other, with Gigantosaurus found in 1993 but far off in Argentine badlands. In spite of the distance, the link between the two genera was established through a kind of shelf in both the dinosaur’s skulls, connecting the frontal and parietal regions of the braincase. As skull evolution tends to be slow, the taxonomic relationship is well established, the two dinosaurs evolving alongside each other before the continents severed.
📸 Carcharodontosaurus tooth
Carcharodontosaurus had massive teeth that could grow up to 8 inches long. These teeth are also what give the species its mouthful of a name. Their resemblance to great white shark teeth caused paleontologists to name the dinosaur after the aquatic predator's genus, Carcharodon. The sharks, in turn, take their names from the Greek for “jagged teeth,” karcharos and odōn, hence Carcharodontosaurus. Like similar theropods, Carcharodontosaurus maintained about 60 teeth at any one time which it would continually replace, leaving a sizeable imprint on the fossil record.
Some Carcharodontosaurus remains have been found within hunting proximity of other predator families like abelisaurids and spinosaurids. How did these apex theropods manage to coexist with each other? While it is very likely the carnivores fought with each other over territory, they also had very different teeth structures. Because of this, it is thought that the dinosaurs fulfilled unique ecological niches, meaning there would be less rivalry for food.
Carcharodontosaurus's serrations indicates a diet of land animals, while Spinosaurus's conical teeth were more suited to capturing fish and aquatic reptiles. This would explain how Carcharodontosaurus was able to survive in the predator-dominated Kem Kem River Delta.
📸 90 million years ago, the Kem Kem beds (pictured) were a vast river system. Now, it is a rich source of Cretaceous fossils. From "Geology and paleontology of the Upper Cretaceous Kem Kem Group of eastern Morocco." Ibrahim, Sereno, et al. (2020)
Carcharodontosaurus is best known from the Kem Kem Group, a collection of strata composed of the smaller Gara Sbaa and Douira formations, exposed on a cliff face along the Morocco-Algerian border. Underneath a top layer of limestone deposited during the Cenomanian-Turonian extinction event is a bonafide treasure trove of theropod remains, along with armored fish, aquatic Crocodyliforms, and plant life. Still, it is the predators that dominate the strata in death as they did the land in life, with four large-bodied theropods identified, among them Carcharodontosaurus.
Kem Kem has shed much light on this clade of dinosaurs, but the formation may be a victim of its own success. The question has been raised whether Kem Kem is an accurate snapshot of the Late Cretaceous or if the formation is an example of time-averaging, where disparate fossils are brought together into the same strata. 70% of Kem Kem fossils are predators, an unusually high number, especially considering the small amount of sauropods and other prey species recovered. Local fossil hunters also tend to focus on the more valuable predator teeth, possibly misrepresenting the ratio between the two.
📸 "Double Death" by Robert Nicholls. The biomechanics of this paleoart piece are analyzed in detail in the 2015 paper "Balance and Strength - Estimating the Maximum Prey-Lifting Potential of the Large Predatory Dinosaur Carcharodontosaurus saharicus"
Carcharodontosaurus and other theropods are best known at Kem Kem from their abundant teeth. In fact, sometimes caches of tooth fossils are discovered in the thousands. Why so many teeth when skeletal fossils from these creatures are extremely rare? There are a couple of factors to this. Firstly, a single Carcharodontosaurus usually had over 60 teeth in its jaws at once and would lose and regrow hundreds throughout its lifetime. Tooth enamel is also more easily preserved than normal bone. Even if only a small percentage were fossilized, there is still a lot of material waiting to be discovered in the fossil beds in Kem Kem and beyond.
Want to learn more about the Kem Kem beds? Check out our full article here!
📸 Paleontologist Paul Sereno with a Carcharodontosaurus skull (University of Chicago)
📸 A pair of Carcharodontosaurus tooth fossils in hand!
Carcharodontosaurus Tooth Fossils
Here's a find straight from the Kem Kem fossil beds: An authentic Carcharodontosaurus fossil tooth!
This specimen is a complete crown of a real, fossilized Carcharodontosaurus tooth from the Kem Kem fossil beds of Morocco.
In addition to the classic boxed specimens, we also have larger teeth available. Each tooth is priced and sold individually and you can see them all in the collection below. The showcase teeth are too large for our standard riker boxes and will ship in sturdy cartons along with a certificate of authenticity.
Brusatte, Stephen L., and Paul C. Sereno. “A New Species of Carcharodontosaurus (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Cenomanian of Niger and a Revision of the Genus.” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, vol. 27, no. 4, 2007, pp. 902–916.
Coria RA, Currie PJ. The braincase of Giganotosaurus carolinii (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous of Argentina. Journal of vertebrate paleontology. 2003;22(4):802-811. doi:10.1671/0272-4634(2002)022[0802:TBOGCD]2.0.CO;2
Currie, Philip J. “Out of Africa: Meat-Eating Dinosaurs That Challenge Tyrannosaurus Rex.” Science, vol. 272, no. 5264, 1996, pp. 971–972.
Dyke, Gareth J. “Palaeoecology: Different Dinosaur Ecologies in Deep Time?” Current Biology, vol. 20, no. 22, 2010, pp. R983–R985, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2010.10.001.
Ibrahim, Nizar, et al. “Geology and Paleontology of the Upper Cretaceous Kem Kem Group of Eastern Morocco.” ZooKeys, vol. 928, 2020, pp. 1–216, https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.928.47517.
Sereno, Paul C., et al. “Predatory Dinosaurs from the Sahara and Late Cretaceous Faunal Differentiation.” Science, vol. 272, no. 5264, 1996, pp. 986–991.