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2020-04-29

Earth's most dangerous place in history is Morocco

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Approximately 100 million years ago, a part of the Sahara Desert now known as South-East Morocco was home to fearsome dinosaurs including three of the largest predatory ones and flying reptiles as well. Scientists call the site "the most dangerous place in planet Earth's history" and "a place where a human traveler wouldn't last a long time."

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

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

According to the study the area wasn't dry and barren about 100 million years ago. Researchers say it was home to a comprehensive river system with a tropical climate and lots of aquatic and terrestrial animals when the creatures were living here.

The Kem Kem Group fossils reveal that it was also the area that included three of humanity's greatest known predatory dinosaurs. These included Carcharodontosaurus, measuring more than 40 feet, and the Deltadromeus, a group of huge raptors with long, slender back limbs.

In addition to that, the area also had several predatory flying reptiles and crocodile-like hunters.

"This was arguably the most dangerous place in planet Earth's history, a place a human time-traveler wouldn't last long," Ibrahim said.

Many of the predators relyed on the area's abundant supply of fish. Study co-author David Martill of Portsmouth University said this place was filled with absolutely huge fish including giant coelacanths and lungfish.

"There's also a huge freshwater sawfish called Onchopristis with the most frightening rostral teeth, they're like barbed daggers, but beautifully shiny," said Martin.

The study required the authors to assemble the necessary vast data sets for the project. Ibrahim led several expeditions to the Sahara, and spent years visiting collections of museums and universities on several continents.

"This monograph will serve as an important resource for many years to come for palaeontologists, geologists and evolutionary biologists," Ibrahim said.