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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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Prehistoric Ticks Once Drank Dinosaur Blood, Fossil Evidence Shows
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Ticks plagued the dinosaurs, too, as evidenced by a 99-million-year old parasite preserved inside a hunk of ancient amber. Entomologists who examined the Cretaceous period fossil noticed that the tiny arachnid was latched to a dinosaur feather—the first evidence that the bloodsuckers dined on dinos, according to The New York Times. These findings were recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

Ticks are one of the most common blood-feeding parasites. But experts didn’t know what they ate in prehistoric times, as parasites and their hosts are rarely found together in the fossil record. Scientists assumed they chowed down on early amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, according to NPR. They didn’t have hard evidence until study co-author David Grimaldi, an entomologist at the American Museum of History, and his colleagues spotted the tick while perusing a private collection of Myanmar amber.

A 99-million-year-old tick encased in amber, grasping a dinosaur feather.
Cornupalpatum burmanicum hard tick entangled in a feather. a Photograph of the Burmese amber piece (Bu JZC-F18) showing a semicomplete pennaceous feather. Scale bar, 5 mm. b Detail of the nymphal tick in dorsal view and barbs (inset in a). Scale bar, 1 mm. c Detail of the tick’s capitulum (mouthparts), showing palpi and hypostome with teeth (arrow). Scale bar, 0.1 mm. d Detail of a barb. Scale bar, 0.2 mm. e Drawing of the tick in dorsal view indicating the point of entanglement. Scale bar, 0.2 mm. f Detached barbule pennulum showing hooklets on one of its sides (arrow in a indicates its location but in the opposite side of the amber piece). Scale bar, 0.2 mm
Peñalver et al., Nature Communications

The tick is a nymph, meaning it was in the second stage of its short three-stage life cycle when it died. The dinosaur it fed on was a “nanoraptor,” or a tiny dino that was roughly the size of a hummingbird, Grimaldi told The Times. These creatures lived in tree nests, and sometimes met a sticky end after tumbling from their perches into hunks of gooey resin. But just because the nanoraptor lived in a nest didn’t mean it was a bird: Molecular dating pinpointed the specimen as being at least 25 million years older than modern-day avians.

In addition to ticks, dinosaurs likely also had to deal with another nest pest: skin beetles. Grimaldi’s team located several additional preserved ticks, and two were covered in the insect’s fine hairs. Skin beetles—which are still around today—are scavengers that live in aerial bird homes and consume molted feathers.

“These findings shed light on early tick evolution and ecology, and provide insights into the parasitic relationship between ticks and ancient relatives of birds, which persists today for modern birds,” researchers concluded in a news release.

[h/t The New York Times]

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The Clever Adaptations That Helped Some Animals Become Gigantic
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Imagine a world in which eagle-sized dragonflies buzzed through the air and millipedes as long as kayaks scuttled across Earth. "Ick"-factor aside for bug haters, these creatures aren't the product of a Michael Crichton fever dream. In fact, they actually existed around 300 million years ago, as MinuteEarth host Kate Yoshida explains.

How did the prehistoric ancestors of today’s itty-bitty insects get so huge? Oxygen, and lots of it. Bugs "breathe by sponging up air through their exoskeletons, and the available oxygen can only diffuse so far before getting used up," Yoshida explains. And when an atmospheric spike in the colorless gas occurred, this allowed the critters' bodies to expand to unprecedented dimensions and weights.

But that's just one of the clever adaptations that allowed some creatures to grow enormous. Learn more about these adaptations—including the ingenious evolutionary development that helped the biggest dinosaurs to haul their cumbersome bodies around, and the pair of features that boosted blue whales to triple their size, becoming the largest animals ever on Earth—by watching MinuteEarth's video below.

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