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Sauroniops

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sauroniops

Sauroniops (Emiliano Troco)

Name:

Sauroniops (Greek for "eye of Sauron"); pronounced sore-ON-ee-ops

Habitat:

Woodlands of northern Africa

Historical Period:

Middle-Late Cretaceous (95 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 30 feet long and two tons

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Unique eye shape; small bump on head

About Sauroniops:

Sometimes, the name a dinosaur is given is inversely proportional to how much we know about it. The impressively named Sauroniops ("eye of Sauron," after the evil overlord in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) is represented in the fossil record by--wait for it--a single fragment of its skull, a six-inch-long "frontal," complete with an odd bulge on top, situated just above this dinosaur's eye socket.

Fortunately for the paleontologists who examined this remnant--which was originally in the possession of an unidentified Moroccan fossil dealer--this bit of a theropod dinosaur's skull is very characteristic, especially since these meat-eating dinosaurs weren't exactly thick on the ground in late Cretaceous northern Africa. Clearly, the fossil belonged to a dinosaur closely related to the well-known Carcharodontosaurus and the not-quite-as-well-known Eocarcharia.

Was Sauroniops truly the Lord of the Dinosaurs? Well, this theropod was clearly a good match for Carcharodontosaurus, measuring about 30 feet from head to tail and tipping the scales at upward of two tons. Aside from that, though, it remains a mystery--even that bump on its head, which may have functioned as a sexually selected characteristic (say, changing color during mating season) or may be a clue that Sauroniops males head-butted each other for dominance in the pack.

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