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This was the ‘most dangerous place in the history of planet Earth’

“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,” study author Ibrahim said.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi | Updated: April 29, 2020 2:30:35 pm
Sahara Desert of the past was the most dangerous place on Earth. (Representnational image: udmercy.edu)

About 100 million years ago, a part of the Sahara Desert now known as south-eastern Morocco, was home to fearsome dinosaurs including three of the largest predatory ones as well as flying reptiles. Scientists are calling the site as the “most dangerous place in the history of planet Earth” and “a place where a human time-traveller would not last very long”.

An international team of scientists reviewed a collection of fossils found in the ancient rock formations known as the Kem Kem Group in Morocco’s Sahara Desert. They have published the first detailed and fully illustrated account of the fossil vertebrates as 216-page monograph in the journal ZooKeys.

Nizar Ibrahim, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of Biology at the University of Detroit Mercy said that the Kem Kem Group provides a peek into Africa’s Age of Dinosaurs. The area is located near the border between Morocco and Algeria on the northwestern edge of the Sahara Desert. In 1996, Professor Paul Sereno from the University of Chicago and his colleagues introduced the informal term “Kem Kem beds” for this region because of its fossil-rich ledge.

Sahara Desert of the past

As per the study, about 100 million years ago the area was not dry and barren. Researchers say that when the creatures lived here, it was home to a comprehensive river system with a tropical climate and many aquatic and terrestrial animals.

Geographical setting of the Kem Kem region and outcrops. A View of the position of Morocco in Africa and location of the Kem Kem beds (shown in red). (Image:ZooKeys)

The fossils from the Kem Kem Group reveal that it was also the area that included three of the largest predatory dinosaurs known to the humankind. These included Carcharodontosaurus, which measured over 40 feet as well as the Deltadromeus, a group of enormous raptors with long, slender back limbs.

Along with that, the area also had several predatory flying reptiles as well as crocodile-like hunters.

Also read | Tiny bird-like dinosaur’s skull and DNA found in 99-million-year-old amber

“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,” Ibrahim said.

Many of the predators were relying on the abundant supply of fish in the area. Study co-author David Martill from the University of Portsmouth said that this place was filled with absolutely enormous fish, including giant coelacanths and lungfish.

“There is also an enormous freshwater sawfish called Onchopristis with the most fearsome of rostral teeth, they are like barbed daggers, but beautifully shiny,” Martin said.

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The study required the authors to assemble the vast datasets needed for the project. Ibrahim led multiple collecting expeditions to the Sahara and spent years visiting museum and university collections on several continents.

“This monograph is going to be an important resource for palaeontologists, geologists and evolutionary biologists for many years to come,” Ibrahim said.

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