Hundreds of Spinosaurus teeth unearthed in ancient river bed that flowed through the Sahara Desert 100 million years ago suggests the giant predator had an aquatic lifestyle

  • The 50-foot, seven-ton Spinosaurus was bigger than the Tyrannosaurus
  • Living 100 million years ago in North Africa, it was thought to be a land dweller 
  • The recent discovery of a  Spinosaurus tail suggested the fearsome predator spent most of its time in the water  
  • Spinosaurus teeth found in riverbeds in Morocco confirm its ‘aquatic lifestyle’

A trove of more than a thousand dinosaur teeth in the Sahara Desert confirms that the largest carnivorous dinosaur on record spent most of its time in the water.

Larger than the Tyrannosaurus, the 50-foot, seven-ton Spinosaurus lived in North Africa some 95 to 100 million years ago.

With a limited fossil record to analyze, scientists have long believed it was a land dweller.

But the discovery of a Spinosaurus tail in the prehistoric Kem Kem riverbeds in Morocco, reported in April in the journal Nature, bolstered the theory that Spinosaurus was semiaquatic and used the appendage to move through the water like an oar.

Now researchers have identified hundreds of Spinosaurus teeth in the same riverbeds, confirming the giant lizard was a real-life ‘river monster.”  

According to their report, published in the journal Cretaceous Research, the massive predator was the most common dinosaur in the Kem Kem, which flowed through the Sahara 100 million years ago.

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Scientists from the University of Portsmouth say the Spinosaurus teeth were easy to identify from among the 1,200 dental remains discovered in the Kem Kem.

‘They have a smooth round cross section which glints when held up to the light,’ said researcher Aaron Quigley.

Some 1,200 teeth were sorted by species and nearly half were from Spinosaurus.

‘The huge number of teeth we collected … reveals that Spinosaurus was there in huge numbers, accounting for 45 percent of the total dental remains,’ said University of Portsmouth paleobiologist David Martill.

A team from the University of Portsmouth recovered more than 1,200 dinosaur teeth from the Kem Kem riverbeds in Morocco and nearly half belonged to Spinosauruses. That abundance, researchers say, 'is a reflection of their aquatic lifestyle'

A team from the University of Portsmouth recovered more than 1,200 dinosaur teeth from the Kem Kem riverbeds in Morocco and nearly half belonged to Spinosauruses. That abundance, researchers say, ‘is a reflection of their aquatic lifestyle’

That abundance ‘is a reflection of their aquatic lifestyle,’ Martill added.

Terrestrial dinosaurs constituted less than one percent of the dental fragments at one Kem Kem site, and barely 5 percent at another, according to the report.

‘An animal living much of its life in water is much more likely to contribute teeth to the river deposit than those dinosaurs that perhaps only visited the river for drinking and feeding along its banks,’ Martill said.

 ‘From this research we are able to confirm this location as the place where this gigantic dinosaur not only lived but also died. The results are fully consistent with the idea of a truly water-dwelling, ‘river monster.” 

Spinosaurus was first uncovered by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer during excavations in Egypt between 1910 and 1914.

Longer than an adult Tyrannosaurus rex, it had an elongated snout atop a crocodile-like maw that bristled with conical teeth that made it easier for it to grasp prey.

Stromer named the creature Spinosaurus, or ‘spine lizard,’ after the long distinctive spines on its back.

He brought dozens of Spinosaurus fossils back to Munich’s Paleontological Museum but they were destroyed when the city was bombed by allies in World War II.

Drawings, photos, and descriptions were all that remained until recently.

How did the fearsome Spinosaurus hunt underwater?

Spinosaurus could grow up to 50 feet long and weigh up to seven tons. 

The beasts were so large and fearsome that the adults of the species had no natural predators. 

Pictured, an artist's impression from National Geographic of two Spinosaurus hunting sawfish. Adult Spinosaurus are known to reach up to 50 feet long and weight seven tons

Pictured, an artist’s impression from National Geographic of two Spinosaurus hunting sawfish. Adult Spinosaurus are known to reach up to 50 feet long and weight seven tons

It had several adaptations that allowed it to survive and hunt underwater. 

Its nostrils were far back on its head, allowing it to breath with only a small portion of its head poking above the water level. 

Its bones were extremely dense, similar to penguins, which allowed it to carefully control its position in the water, striking a careful balance between buoyancy and submersion. 

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Large, flat feet that were most probably webbed allowed it to lumber across the soft land around the river banks, while locomotion in water was similar to crocodiles. 

Its flat tail moved laterally and propelled the dinosaur forward.   

It was a therepod, the same group of dinosaurs that includes Tyranosaurus rex. 

It is the only dinosaur that is known to have swum and had huge jaws packed with six inch long razor sharp teeth. 

The teeth were conical and not blade-like, which were well adapted to hold on to the slippery prey it hunted. 

Its snout is more similar to that of crocodiles than to other predatory dinosaurs. This housed sensory structures able to capture the waves produced by swimming prey.

This organ functioned like a sonar – allowing the animal to hunt even in murky waters. 

 



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