Time travelers steer clear.
A fossil-filled Moroccan depository dating back to the Cretaceous period has been named the “most dangerous place in the history of planet Earth,” due to its plethora of fearsome predators.
Researchers across the globe published the first detailed and fully illustrated account of the deadly escarpment known as the Kem Kem Group in a recent article in the journal ZooKeys.
“This was arguably the most dangerous place in the history of planet Earth,” says the study’s lead author Nizar Ibrahim, Ph.D., an assistant biology professor at the University of Detroit Mercy. The University of Portsmouth visiting researcher adds that the southeast Moroccan site was “a place where a human time-traveler would not last very long.”
Indeed, 100 million years ago, the prehistoric chomping grounds were roamed by a murderer’s row of Cretaceous carnivores, including enormous crocodiles, several species of flying reptile, super raptors and the 26-foot-long saber-toothed Carcharodontosaurus, according to the study.
The number of mega-hunters was especially terrifying given that most Mesozoic rock formations like Kem Kem typically only housed one to two giant predators, according to researchers.
Despite their terrifying reputations, the river system’s carnivores mainly feasted on the region’s bountiful supply of seafood.
“This place was filled with absolutely enormous fish, including giant coelacanths and lungfish,” says co-author David Martill in a statement. He describes an “enormous freshwater saw shark called Onchopristis with the most fearsome of rostral teeth — they are like barbed daggers, but beautifully shiny.”
Most importantly, the discovery “provides a window into Africa’s Age of Dinosaurs” says Ibrahim, who visited Kem Kem collections on several continents to assemble the watershed study’s immense datasets. Unfortunately, Kem Kem’s renown has caused it to be plundered by paleontological grave-robbers over the decades, with many pieces ending up in private collections.
“This is the most comprehensive piece of work on fossil vertebrates from the Sahara in almost a century,” says Martill.
The findings could just be the tip of the super-predator-iceberg.
“Given the continued input of new specimens and the continuing expansion of paleontological research,” Ibrahim says, “we predict that diversity in the Kem Kem Group will increase substantially in the coming decades.”