News

Prehistoric Sahara was the most dangerous place on planet Earth, study says

For this story, we have to go back. Way back.

100 million years ago, back.

Skull
Photo – Mark Leaver

Scientists have claimed that 100 million years ago, the prehistoric Sahara was “most dangerous place in the history of planet earth.”

In an area of the Sahara, which we’d now refer to as south-Eastern Morocco, a team of scientists have come to a deadly conclusion. After reviewing a collection of fossils found near the border of Morocco and Algeria, the team published a paper to the journal ZooKeys. Its findings can only make us glad we weren’t around to see the carnage go down.

In the paper, leading author and biologist Nizar Ibrahim had this to say: “This was arguably the most dangerous place in the history of planet Earth, a place where a human time-traveller would not last very long”. We just have to look at the fossils to know why.

Let’s start with the land creatures, bound to make any human wet their pants and leg it. The Sahara was home to the three largest predatory dinosaurs we know of, including the Carcharodontosaurus group. These dinosaurs flexed serrated teeth, sometimes measuring over 40 feet long. There’s also the Deltadromeous, a collection of raptors with powerful and agile hind limbs. Herbivores, you ask? Forget about it. The researchers state that there was no comparable terrestrial ecosystem so governed by huge carnivores.

So surviving on land clearly wasn’t an option – but don’t think the water was safe. The creatures the scientists found underwater are arguably even more terrifying, including crocodilians and sharks. Co-author David Martill states, “There is an enormous freshwater saw shark called Onchopristis with the most fearsome of rostral teeth. They are like barbed daggers, but beautifully shiny.”

Thank god we live in 2020.

A visual representation of what it might have been like, from artist Davide Bonadonna/University of Portsmouth

Up next: Scientists discover world’s longest animal off the coast of Australia.