While Sauron terrorized Middle Earth, the dinosaur named after him, a new species of flesh-ripping dinosaur, threatened North Africa some 95 million years ago.
The species — Sauroniops pachytholus, or “eye of Sauron” was identified from a single fossil which included only part the upper skull — with the eye socket, unearthed in southeastern Morocco in 2007. Comparisons of the skull with those of related species fossils suggest the creature measured up to 12 meters in length (40 feet). As a carcharodontosaur—a type of huge theropod, or two-legged meat-eater—Sauron likely had “a long and deep skull bearing dozens of bladelike teeth”. The fossil also revealed that the dinosaur had a distinctive bump on its forehead, which may have been used for head-butting clashes during male mating displays, the team speculates.
“The idea of a predator that is physically known only as its fierce eye reminded me of Sauron, in particular as depicted in Peter Jackson’s movies,” said Andrea Cau, of the Museo Geologico Giovanni Capellini in Bologna, Italy. “The skull bone of Sauroniops is very broad and particularly thick: This suggests an animal as big as Tyrannosaurus [rex],” Cau said. But without more fossils, “a more precise estimation of its size is currently impossible,” the paleontologist added. “Sauroniops lived along the banks of a large delta, under a hot and warm climate, very rich of fishes and crocodiles,” he added. “The abundance of food may explain the abundance of predatory dinosaurs.”
Illustration courtesy Emiliano Troco
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