Imagine living a hundred million years ago and having an encounter with a dinosaur. Sounds frightening yet exciting, right? One dinosaur is enough to set you running on your feet. This famous formation called Kem Kem Beds is considered the most dangerous place on the planet then and most probably now (if the dinos are still living). Discovered fossils in this area show plenty of predators that feed on one another for food.
What dinosaurs are discovered in the Kem Kem Beds? The Kem Kem Beds is home to various large-bodied groups of dinosaurs such as theropods, sauropods, and pterosaurs. It also contains many species of flying reptiles, fish, and crocodilians that all lived in the dangerous formation in the late Cretaceous.
This article will talk about the fossils found in the Kem Kem Beds. I will also discuss what groups of dinosaurs have lived in this formation and the environment during the Cretaceous era.
Lastly, I also mentioned the species of dinosaurs who dominated the Kem Kem Beds and their different characteristics.
What Period are Most of the Fossils from the Kem Kem Beds From?
The richly fossiliferous strata, also known as Kem Kem Beds, are famous fossil sites in eastern Morocco. The area is located near the border between Morocco and Algeria, on the northwestern edge of the Sahara Desert.
The Kem Kem Beds is considered a paradise for predators. It is a home for various carnivores who dominate the area and feed on fish and other creatures.
Several amazing dinosaur fossils are found in the Kem Kem Beds that lived ninety-five million years ago, including at least four large-bodied and non-avian theropods, namely abelisaurid, Spinosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus, and Deltadromeus. (Source)
Several large-bodied pterosaurs, crocodilians, turtles, and a range of sharks and bony fish were also found in the formation proving the site’s capability to cater to diverse creatures.
In 1996 Professor Sereno and colleagues introduced “Kem Kem Beds,” an informal term for the fossil-rich ridge. The strata are divided into two geological formations, the Gara Sbaa Formation and the Upper Douira Formation.
Fossils of different animals are collected here by researchers affiliated with an institutional collection.
Scientists believed that these dinosaurs lived in the Kem Kem Beds in the mid or early Late Cretaceous era. They also believed that the presence of theropods in the Kem Kem Beds shows that the area is predominantly occupied by carnivores more than herbivores.
In a study made by Dr. Nizar Ibrahim of the University of Detroit and Professor Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago, they reviewed the paleontology and geology of this region. The monograph depicts violent life forms in this area.
Furthermore, the collection of vertebrates and non-vertebrates shows a huge diversity of life forms in the Kem Kem group that dominates the area. Ibrahim also said that the Kem Kem group provides a glance into Africa’s Age of Dinosaurs.
The Dinosaurs Dominating the Kem Kem Beds
Let us find out what groups of animals were present during the late Cretaceous period in the Kem Kem Beds.
Fossils recovered from the Kem Kem Beds revealed that the place is home to the largest predatory dinosaurs to record, like Carcharodontosaurus, which measures over forty feet in length.
Here also lives the Deltadromeus, a group of huge predators with long and slender back limbs.
YouTube Video About How We Unearthed the Spinosaurus
Also found in the fossil-rich site are several predatory flying reptiles, ancient crocodiles, and turtles. According to Ibrahim, the Kem Kem Beds is “arguably the most dangerous place in the history of planet Earth.”
A key feature of the Kem Kem group is discovering several large-bodied theropods, a meat-eating group of dinosaurs.
They are known to be the largest dinosaur predator on record, reaching more than 12 meters in adult body length. Theropods fossils discovered in the Kem Kem Beds include the sail-backed Spinosaurus and the sharp-toothed Carcharodontosaurus.
Most fossils discovered in the Kem Kem Beds are broken pieces from dinosaur body parts. Only four partial dinosaur skeletons or skulls have been recovered and studied for further findings of the creature’s characteristics and physique.
These dinosaurs include the long-necked sauropod Rebbachisaurus garasbae, theropods Deltadromeus agilis, Carcharodontosaurus saharicus, and Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.
What was the Sahara Desert Like in the Past?
Kem Kem Beds were found in an area of the Sahara Desert. According to studies, millions of years ago, the place was not dry and desolate like it is now.
Researchers explained that diverse animals lived there, benefiting from the comprehensive river system, tropical climate, and many aquatic and terrestrial animals present in the area. Predators found their prey in the form of abundant fishes in the area.
Study co-author David Martill said that the Kem Kem Beds before is a place filled with huge fishes, giant coelacanths, lungfish, and gigantic sawfish called Onchopristis.
Dr. Nizar Ibrahim also commented that the Kem Kem Beds is a mysterious place. Given the ecosystem present in the formation, it is typical that many plant-eating animals would be living there, consuming the richness of the environment.
But with Kem Kem Beds, it is surprisingly dominated by large carnivorous predators who lived together, co-existing and even feeding off one another. As for dinosaur standards, according to Ibrahim, this setup is very unusual because dinosaurs always need to show power, having the strongest one as the ruler of the land. (Source)
Spinosaurus and Other Amazing Fossil Finds From the Kem Kem Beds
The amazing fossils discovered in the Kem Kem Beds are surprisingly all large-bodied animals who are predators to other creatures living there or predators of their same kind.
Small Number of Sauropods
Among the first group of dinosaurs discovered in the Kem Kem Beds are the sauropods, although only a small number of sauropod remains are found in the Kem Kem Beds.
The best-represented sauropod is the Rebbachisaurus, a short-necked and ridge-backed dinosaur closely related to the famous Diplodocus and Apatosaurus.
Rebbachisaurus appear to be a little over fifteen meters, half the size of Diplodocus and Apatosaurus. (Source)
Among the large-bodied theropods found in the Kem Kem Beds is the Spinosaurus, the largest dinosaur of all carnivores.
Its estimated size is between 12 to 18 meters. Spinosaurus is a long-tailed creature with very short legs and a long, low, and narrow skull. It resembles the modern crocodilians and moves like a combination of a duck and crocodile.
According to Matthew Lamanna, a paleontologist at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, the species would look like “the unholy love child of Carcharodontosaurus and a crocodile.” Furthermore, their common food is the huge fish in the area.
Carcharodontosaurus is one of those theropods that is longer than a T.rex, measuring thirteen meters in length. It is more lightly built and slimmer. For food, it bravely hunts for sauropods and other theropods or might depend on the huge fishes of Kem Kem swamps.
Deltadromeus have long, unusually slender hind limbs, which according to studies, suggests that it is a runner.
It is estimated to have measured around 8 meters. Deltadromeus was assumed to be a close relative of a small, long-necked herbivorous ceratosaur named Limusaurus from Jurassic China.
No skulls of Deltadromeus have been found as of the writing, so scientists cannot establish the features of this dinosaur.
Pterosaurs: The Flying Reptiles
Another group of dinosaurs to dominate the Kem Kem Beds is the pterosaurs.
Two known pterosaurs from the Kem Kem Beds are the Siroccopteryx and the Alanqa. Siroccopteryx is a fish-eating anhanguera with very long, eagle-like wings. They are experts at soaring over the ocean targeting fishes and other sea creatures as their prey.
Alanqa is an azhdarchid, a creature with long legs and an extremely long neck. They use the hard knobs on their beaks to crush oysters and other shellfish—their wingspan measures between four to six meters across.
Fishes and Other Creatures
There are also plenty of fishes available as prey in the Kem Kem Beds. The area has eating detritus and algae, a massive number of coelacanths which are probably four or five times larger than modern-day coelacanths, lungfishes, and huge sawfish of up to eight meters in length.
An enormous freshwater saw shark called Onchopristis was also found in the formation. The shark features fearsome rostral teeth like barbed daggers, sharp and shiny.
These animals lived at different locations within the Kem Kem Beds and were a food source for many creatures during the Late Cretaceous.
Other fossil finds from the Kem Kem Beds are mollusks like marine snails, crustaceans, scavengers, detritivores, crocodilians, and turtles.
The studies and findings of the diverse set of creatures living in the Kem Kem Beds are a great addition to the growing available information about dinosaurs.
These discoveries show that even million years have passed, the traces and remains left from the lives lived by ancient dinosaurs will always have a place in our minds. It is a part of history that opens our eyes to the wonderful past.