Friday, February 15, 2008

Run for the hills: Flesh-eating dinosaurs found in Niger

From Agence-France Presse:

Two strange new flesh-eating dinosaurs which hunted the rich forests of Africa some 110 million years ago have been unearthed in Niger, researchers said Thursday.

Both ran quickly on powerful hind legs with the aid of a long tail and competed for prey with a third creature, which was previously discovered and which hunted both in and out of the water.

But the three massive predators likely divided up the rich spoils based upon how their body structures impacted their hunting capacities, said lead author Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago.

The heavy-browed 40-foot long Eocarcharia dinops, or "fierce-eyed dawn shark," was likely the main predator as its powerful claws and teeth could tear limbs and flesh off its prey.

Its brow was swollen into a massive band of bone, giving it a menacing glare, that may have been used as a battering ram against rivals for mating rights.

The short-snouted 25-foot long Kryptops palaios, or "old hidden face," also discovered in 2000, was likely a scavenger because of its short forearms and an armored snout better suited for digging into carcasses than for snapping at live prey.

The sail-backed 36-foot long Suchomimus or "crocodile mimic," which Sereno discovered in 1997, likely feasted mostly on fish because of its long, narrow snout and hook-like teeth.

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