for National Geographic News
Two 110-million-year-old fossils of meat-eating dinosaurs that once ruled the southern continents have been found in Africa, scientists announced.
First discovered in 2000, the new species are theropods—two-legged carnivores—that lived in the same habitat and grew to about 25 feet (7.6 meters) long.
Eocarcharia dinops, or "fierce-eyed dawn shark," was likely an ambush predator armed with massive, shark-like teeth. Kryptops palaios, or "old hidden face," is thought have been a hyena-like scavenger that feasted on carcasses.
The dinosaurs were discovered in Africa's Sahara Desert by Paul Sereno, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago and a National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)
(Related news: "'Wrinkle Face' Dinosaur Fossil Found in Africa" [June 2, 2004].)
The bizarre-looking dinosaurs are described in the latest issue of the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.
Kryptops was likely a short-snouted species with small, sharp teeth, tiny arms, and a horny face that may have helped the creature gobble its prey's internal organs.
"From the texture of the [skull] bone it seems like they almost have a bill on the front of their faces for sticking their head in and gnawing away at carcasses," Sereno said.
"With such a short snout and such puny arms, Kryptops would not be so well designed for grabbing something that was trying to run away," he said.
Eocarcharia, by contrast, had powerful forelimbs and 3-inch-long (7.6-centimeter-long) blade-shaped teeth for disabling prey and severing body parts, according to Sereno and study co-author Stephen Brusatte of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.
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