A new giant predatory dinosaur, named Sauroniops pachytholus, lived around 95 million years ago in southern Morocco, based on a study published online in October 2012 in the journal Cretaceous Research by palaeontologists Andrea Cau ('G. Capellini' Museum, Bologna), Fabio M. Dalla Vecchia (Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont), and Matteo Fabbri (Florence University). Some international press was announcing it in early November. Let us help this dissemination!
Sauroniops was a member of the Carcharodontosauridae Family, a group of giant two-legged meat-eating dinosaurs that lived during the Cretaceous period in Eurasia, Africa and Americas.
The description is based on a single, but peculiar, large skull roof bone (the frontal bone) about 20 cm long, showing that the dinosaur was characterized by a dome-like prominence above its eyes. For this reason, the origin of its name is from Sauron, fictional character pf The Lord of the Rings created by J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) that has the aspect of a big eye, and ops, Greek for ‘eye’.
Sauroniops lived in a deltaic tropical environment extending along northern Africa 95 million years ago, together with other giant predatory dinosaurs like Carcharodontosaurus and Spinosaurus, large crocodiles, and giant lobe-finned fishes.
The size of the skull bone of Sauroniops (see Figure 1) suggests an animal about 10-12 meters in length.
The function of the thickened skull bones and the dome-like prominence above the eye of this dinosaur is unclear. Possibly the males of this species engaged in head-butting clashes during the reproductive season, as in modern bovids with similar skull thickening.
+ info Cau A., Dalla Vecchia F. M., Fabbri M. 2013 - A thick-skulled theropod (Dinosauria, Saurischia) from the Upper Cretaceous of Morocco with implications for carcharodontosaurid cranial evolution. Cretaceous Research 40: 251-260. doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2012.09.002
+ info Dinosaur genus named for Lord of the Rings villain, Sauron, Wired, 5 November 2012
+ info New "Sauron" Dinosaur Found, Big as T. Rex, National Geographic, 6 November 2012
+ info Sauroniops Pachytholus: T. Rex-Like Dinosaur Species Named For 'Lord Of The Rings' Villain, The Huffingtonpost, 8 November 2012
+ info New Dinosaur Discovered – Named After the Demonic Sauron from Lord of the Rings, Dinosaur Tracking Blog, Smithsonian.com, 14 December 2012