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10 Horned Facts About Carnotaurus

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Cheer up, Argentina! You may have lost the World Cup, but today, we’re honoring one of your coolest-looking dinosaurs. How’s that for a consolation prize?

1. Carnotaurus’ Name Means “Meat-Eating Bull.”

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To date, Carnotaurus sastrei—which roamed Argentinian wilds around 70 million years ago—is the genus’ only known species.

2. Those Devilish Horns May Have Been Combat-Ready.

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Anchored menacingly above Carnotaurus’ eyes is something we don’t normally associate with predatory animals: a pair of horns. Why were these needed? Well, perhaps rivals dueled every so often. Each horn’s upper side was broad, flat, and seemingly capable of withstanding considerable stress during head-to-head combat. However, a 2009 analysis argues that Carnotaurus’ skull couldn’t long endure “rapid frontal blows.” Thus, the dinos likely would have preferred slow, deliberate shoving matches.

3. There’s A Bit of Debate Over How Strong Carnotaurus’ Bite Was.

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The aforementioned study also claims that Carnotaurus jaws were designed to produce weak, “muscle-driven” bites. In contrast, previous estimates implied that it could chomp down twice as hard as modern alligators do. Crikey!

4. Carnotaurus had Ludicrously Tiny Arms.

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Deride T. rex’s puny forelimbs all you want, but Carnotaurus makes the Tyrant Lizard King look like a heavyweight boxing champ. Granted, its lower arm bones were fairly robust and, accordingly, may not have been 100 percent useless. Yet, it’s still difficult to imagine these bizarre, peg-like appendages playing a huge role in daily life.

5. Still, Carnotaurus Was Frighteningly Fast.

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Here’s a handy survival tip: When being chased by a Carnotaurus, try giving it the slip with some quick turns. Powerful thigh muscles connected to the dinosaur’s thick, muscular tail helped make it a formidable sprinter. But Carnotaurus couldn’t exactly change direction on a dime—the vertebrae in its tail were too tightly interlocked to permit sudden turning.

6. A Pack of Color-Changing Carnotaurus Show up In Michael Crichton’s The Lost World

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In the second novel of his bestselling Jurassic Park series, Crichton throws some camouflaging Carnotaurus at the protagonists, who proceed to scare them off with their flashlights.

7. Disney’s Dinosaur (2000) Took a Lot of Liberties with Carnotaurus’ Size

In this scene, a monstrous Carnotaurus towers over a trio of beaked herbivores known as Iguanodon, which—in real life—were actually longer than the 25-foot predator.

8. It Had Very Bumpy Skin.

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Carnotaurus’ hide—as demonstrated by fossilized skin impressions—was covered in small scales with a smattering of bony lumps called “osteoderms” tossed in for good measure.

9. It’s Related to an Alleged Cannibal.

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Distinctive bite marks have been located on the bones of Majungasaurus, a Carnotaurus cousin from Madagascar. These perfectly correspond to the known dimensions of Majungasaurus jaws and teeth, implying that the dinos frequently made meals of each other.

10. A Super-Powered Carnotaurus Named “Ace” Stars in Dinosaur King, One of the Weirdest Pokemon Rip-Offs You’ll Ever See

Based on a successful line of card and video games, this cartoon series features an adolescent boy named Rex Owen (*cough* “Ash Ketchum!” *cough*). The lad partners with a purple Carnotaurus, which often gets pitted against other dinos in epic, computer-generated battles. We’ll just let this clip speak for itself:

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The T. Rex Fossil That Caused a Scientific Controversy
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In the early 2000s, a team of paleontologists inadvertently set the stage for a years-long scientific saga after they excavated a well-preserved partial Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton from Montana's Hell Creek formation. While transporting the bones, the scientists were forced to break a femur. Pieces from inside the thigh bone fell out, and these fragments were sent to Mary Schweitzer, a paleontologist at North Carolina State University, for dissection and analysis.

Under a microscope, Schweitzer thought she could make out what appeared to be cells and tiny blood vessels inside the pieces, similar to those commonly discovered inside fresh bone. Further analysis revealed what appeared to be animal proteins, which sent Schweitzer reeling. Could she have just discovered soft tissue inside dinosaur leg bone many millions of years old, found in ancient sediments laid down during the Cretaceous period? Or was the soft stuff simply a substance known as biofilm, which would have been formed by microbes after the bone had already fossilized?

Following a seemingly endless series of debates, studies, and papers, Schweitzer's hunch was proven correct. That said, this contentious conclusion wasn't made overnight. To hear the whole saga—and learn what it means for science—watch the recent episode of Stated Clearly below, which was first spotted by website Earth Archives.

[h/t Earth Archives]

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Fossilized Poop Shows Some Herbivorous Dinosaurs Loved a Good Crab Dinner
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Lead author Karen Chin of the University of Colorado Boulder
Courtesy the University of Colorado Boulder

Scientists can learn a lot about the prehistoric world through very, very old poop. Just recently, researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder and Kent State University studying fossilized dinosaur poop discovered that some herbivores weren't as picky about their diets as we thought. Though they mostly ate plants, large dinosaurs living in Utah 75 million years ago also seem to have eaten prehistoric crustaceans, as Nature News reports.

The new study, published in Scientific Reports, finds that large dinosaurs of the Late Cretaceous period seem to have eaten crabs, along with rotting wood, based on the content of their coprolites (the more scientific term for prehistoric No. 2). The fossilized remains of dinos' bathroom activities were found in the Kaiparowits rock formation in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a known hotspot for pristine Late Cretaceous fossils.

"The large size and woody contents" of the poop suggest that they were created by dinosaurs that were well-equipped to process fiber in their diets, as the study puts it, leading the researchers to suggest that the poop came from big herbivores like hadrosaurs, whose remains have been found in the area before.

Close up scientific images of evidence of crustaceans in fossilized poop.
Chin et al., Scientific Reports (2017)

While scientists previously thought that plant-eating dinosaurs like hadrosaurs only ate vegetation, these findings suggest otherwise. "The diet represented by the Kaiparowits coprolites would have provided a woody stew of plant, fungal, and invertebrate tissues," the researchers write, including crabs (Yum). These crustaceans would have provided a big source of calcium for the dinosaurs, and the other invertebrates that no doubt lived in the rotting logs would have provided a good source of protein.

But they probably didn't eat the rotting wood all year, instead munching on dead trees seasonally or during times when other food sources weren’t available. Another hypothesis is that these "ancient fecal producers," as the researchers call them, might have eaten the rotting wood, with its calcium-rich crustaceans and protein-laden invertebrates, during egg production, similar to the feeding patterns of modern birds during breeding season.

Regardless of the reason, these findings could change how we think about what big dinosaurs ate.

[h/t Nature News]

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