Suchomimus vs. Ouranosaurus
Our match opens during Early Cretaceous Niger around 110 million years ago. The landscape hosts a diverse array of life in a fluvial environment, in streams and rivers that are part of a vast floodplain. Suchomimus shares this ecosystem with many other animals including flying reptiles, giant crocodiles (like Sarchosuchus), unique fish, and other dinosaurs.
The elongated spines of a dangerous semi-aquatic hunter break the calm backwaters surface. She is a young spinosaurid, Suchomimus, patrolling a murky sediment-laden river. This theropod is not yet fully grown but still is an impressive 10 meters long, with a likely height at her hip of 2.6 meters. This carnivore fills a special aquatic niche in this Cretaceous African coastal ecosystem. Having a long, narrow, crocodile-like head sporting a hooked jaw, lined with conical, pointed, teeth make her an adept fish-eater (Sereno et al., 1998). These unique evolved adaptations have made her a specialized piscivorous killing machine.
Unperturbed by the lurking theropod, a large herbivorous quadruped, also sporting an extended dorsal sail, is spotted along the shore (Bertozzo et al., 2017). He is a lone adult Ouranosaurus, and potential next meal for Suchomimus.
The robust brave-lizard uses her rows of leaf-shaped teeth to grind up the low-lying plants found along the river delta. Ouranosaurus grazes next to other plant-eating dinosaurs including sauropods like Nigersaurus and heavy-lizard ornithopod Lurdusaurus. This basal hadrosauriform has a short, flexible, robust neck, and elongated head.
As the still partially submerged Suchomimus kicks her flat-webbed feet and quietly nears the edge of the riverbank she realizes that the Ouranosaurus is much larger than she first thought. Though Ouranosaurus is herbivorous, adults are deceptively strong, and having previously learned first-hand not to mess with the fully grown versions of this ornithopod on land, Suchomimus is wary. Hungry and thinking she may have a chance at a larger meal the carnivore still approaches.
Suchomimus hopes to catch the adult by surprise by lunging out of the water, clamping her jaws around her prey’s head, and pulling him under the water.
Just as the Suchomimus prepares to strike the Ouranosaurus notices the long shadow nearing the shoreline and rears up on his hind legs. Landing loudly back down with a loud thud onto his front limbs. The Ouranosaurus aggressively stomps while huffing and alerting other herbivores of the new danger.
Despite this aggressive show the Suchomimus continues her approach, until Ouranosaurus suddenly begins backing away from the bank and the Suchomimus is forced to decide if she can take the plant-eater on land.
Suchomimus, realizing she no longer can rely on dragging her foe underwater, turns away and retreats from the shore. Returning into the murky deeper river, where much easier fish-like prey is plentiful.
Despite both opponents’ survival, the carnivore ceased her advances turning tail after realizing the risk was not worth it.