The name of Tyrannosaurus rex it is not something casual. Rex comes from Latin and means “king”, as this tyrannosaurus, in his time, was the king of dinosaurs. At least based on the available evidence. But there was a time, long before it walked the Earth, when at the top of the food chain was possibly another very different dinosaur: a carcharodontosaurus which has just been described in a study by The Royal Society, thanks to the finding of a large jaw in Uzbekistan.
The owner of this jaw was christened Ulughbegsaurus uzbekistanensis and it’s the first carcharodontosaurus that is discovered in Central Asia. Like the rest of them, he had large sharp teeth, similar to those of sharks. As for its size, it was especially large, since it was about 8 meters long and weighed a ton.
Tyrannosaurs and carcharodontosaurs are related dinosaurs, which were also competitors. But with whom did this colossal animal really compete?
Tyrannosaurus vs. Carcharodontoraur
The jaw of U. uzbekistanensis was found in 1980, in the Kyzylkum desert, in Uzbekistan.
The jaw was discovered in 1980, but it wasn’t studied until 2019
However, it was not until 2019 when an international team of scientists decided to study it after recovering it from a collection of museums in the Asian country. To begin with, they found that he had 90 million years of antiquity.
This indicates that it coincided with several tyrannosaurs, but not with the Tyrannosaurus rex, who lived ago 66-68 million years. The largest tyrannosaurus that lived with him was the Timurlengia. And without a doubt this one had nothing to do against him, because measured about 4 meters and weighed 170 kilograms. This places the newly found shark-toothed dinosaur as the leading predator of the time.
In all fairness, if he had lived with the T. rex, perhaps it would have remained the king, although it would have made it difficult for him. And is that, although U. uzbekistanensis was longer (the T. rex measured about 12 meters long), the king tyrannosaurus was much heavier, with about 6-8 tons. Even so, it appears that other shark-toothed dinosaurs did weigh about 6 tons, so the confrontation would have been very even.
U. uzbekistanensis with Timurlengia. Credit: Julio Costonyi
According to the authors of this recent study, U. uzbekistanensis has some bumps unique above their teeth. However, it has bony ridges on the sides of the jaw that have also been found in the tyrannosaurus Thanatotheristes degrootorum, dated with about 79.5 million years of antiquity.
This indicates that both dinosaurs could have had a convergent evolution; which, as explained in Live Science, occurs when two species that are not closely related evolve until they have similar characteristics.
However, despite their similarities, this latest finding shows that carcharodontosaurs must have been at the top of the food chain in the years they walked the Earth. Then about 80 million years, disappeared, giving way to the tyrannosaurs, who became the new kings of the roost, in Asia and North America. Then the T. rex arrived and there are plenty of explanations of what happened.