Sahara was ‘most dangerous place’ in Earth’s history 100 million years ago

Illustration of predators that roamed the Sahara Desert 100 million years ago

A 100 million years ago, ferocious predators made Africa’s Sahara the most dangerous place on Earth, where “a human time-traveller wouldn’t last very long”.

The area then was home to a vast river system, filled with different species of aquatic and terrestrial animals. Fossils from south-eastern Morocco include three of the largest predatory dinosaurs ever known, including the 26-foot-tall, sabre-toothed Carcharodontosaurus (with enormous jaws and long, serrated teeth up to eight inches long) and Deltadromeus (a member of the raptor family), as well as several predatory flying reptiles (pterosaurs) and crocodile-like hunters.

Many of the predators relied on an abundant supply of fish. “This place was filled with absolutely enormous fish, including giant coelacanths and lungfish. The coelacanth, for example, is probably four or even five times larger than today’s coelacanth. There was an enormous freshwater saw shark called Onchopristis with the most fearsome of teeth, like barbed daggers,” said Prof. David Martill from the University of Portsmouth.

This is the most comprehensive piece of work on fossil vertebrates from the Sahara in almost a century and provides a window into Africa’s ‘Age of Dinosaurs’.