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KAR - noh - TAW - rus

Todd Marshall. Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Meat bull"
Length: 16 feet (5 m)
Diet: Carnivore (Meat-Eater)
Time: Early Cretaceous
Location: Argentina

This bizarre-looking theropod, distinguished by a pair of sharp, stout horns that projected outward above its tiny eye sockets, is known from only a single specimen, discovered by the Argentinian paleontologist Jose Bonaparte in the Patagonia region of Argentina. The skeleton was almost complete, and there was also some impressions of skin. The whole specimen was protected by a large concretion-a section of very hard rock. These skin impressions, which covered much of the body and part of the skull, had a "pebbly" texture and were described as being reptile-like. However, the scales on the skin did not overlap as they do on some reptiles.

Bonaparte concluded that Carnotaurus belonged to a hitherto unknown theropod family-the Abelisauridae. Other specimens of abelisaurids-probable relatives of the Jurassic ceratosaurids-were later discovered in Argentina, India, and Madagascar. This provides us with evidence that these landmasses were connected at some point during the Jurassic or Cretaceous, as no positively identified abelisaurids have been found anywhere else, including mainland Africa.

Like all other abelisaurids, Carnotaurus had sharp, serrated teeth that seemed to splay out from the sides, giving the face a rather triangular look when seen from the front. One feature in which Carnotaurus resembled the tyrannosaurids was in its forelimbs, which seem ridiculously short for an animal of its size. But the construction of the forelimb was different from that of the tyrannosaurids. In tyrannosaurids, the bones in the lower limb (the radius and the ulna) were shorter than the bone in the upper limb (the humerus), but they were still substantial bones, and the hand had only two functional fingers. In Carnotaurus, the radius and ulna were so short that they looked almost like wrist bones rather than lower arm bones, and the hand had four digits.

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