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10 Predatory Facts About Albertosaurus

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Neil Conway

This week, we’re shining our spotlight on the imposing Albertosaurus, one of T. rex’s best-known cousins.  

1. It Was one of Several North American Tyrannosaurs.

Millions of years before Tyrannosaurus rex showed up, smaller relatives like Alaska’s Nanuqsaurus, New Mexico’s Bistahieversor, and Utah’s Teratophoneus—whose excellent name means “monstrous murderer”—terrorized the continent.

2. Some Speculate that Albertosaurus Traveled in Packs.

Ryan Somma

It’s flat-out impossible to fully ascertain an extinct animal’s social norms on the basis of nothing but fossilized bones. With that being said, Albertosaurus skeletons have been found in large groups, prompting a few paleontologists to wonder if these 30-foot carnivores were potential pack-hunters.  

3. Albertosaurus Bit Each Other’s Faces

Ryan Somma

Deep, tell-tale scars reveal that Albertosaurus and Tyrannosaurus would not only bite other members of their own species, but occasionally target a very specific region while doing so: namely, the facial area. One especially-unlucky Albertosaurus managed to survive after having a rival chomp down on its lower jaw twice! 

4. Albertosaurus’ Ancestors Migrated From Asia

Wikimedia Commons

The earliest tyrannosauroids—which evolved in or near modern-day China during the Jurassic period (199.6-145.5 million years ago)—were hardly intimidating. Feathery Dilong paradoxus, for example, would’ve been slightly over 6 feet long when fully grown. Yet, as this formerly-humble group gradually spread out across Asia, Europe, and the Americas, it produced some of the biggest predators our planet’s ever seen.

5. It Wasn’t the Only Dino Named After Alberta.

Wikimedia Commons

Albertaceratops (pictured above) and Albertonykus were also named for this dinosaur-rich Canadian province.

6. Albertosaurus’ Teeth Took a Beating.

Robert Taylor

Ripping through flesh can put a lot of pressure on your pearly whites. Dino tooth expert William Abler has hypothesized that, while feeding, a line of serrations on Albertosaurus teeth helped keep them from cracking.

7. We’ve Got Skin Impressions from Albertosaurus’ Closest Relative.

Wikimedia Commons

Pebbly, Gila monster-like scale impressions have been found in association with Gorosaurus libratus, a sleek carnivore from Montana and Western Canada that is so Albertosaurus-like that some scientists think it really belongs to the same genus. 

8. Compared to T. rex, Albertosaurus Was Almost Petite.

Wikimedia Commons

Though Tyrannosaurus rex only stretched 10 to 12 feet longer than Albertosaurus, most estimates indicate that the bigger dino was significantly heavier. Adult “rexes” are generally thought to have weighed in at 5 to 7 tons. Slender Albertosaurus, on the other hand, likely maxed out at 2 to 3.

9. Juveniles Were Seemingly Built for Speed.

Falashad

Leggy young Albertosaurus had proportionately lengthier hind limbs than mature specimens, indicating that they could’ve far out-paced older rivals [PDF].

10. A Long-Lost Albertosaurus Bone Bed was Rediscovered 86 Years Later.

James West

Finding several large, predatory dinosaurs at the same site qualifies as a major-league discovery. So when fossil-hunting rock star Barnum Brown plucked nine Albertosaurus skeletons from a mass graveyard in 1910, it was a pretty big deal. But the explorer never recorded his treasure trove’s whereabouts for posterity’s sake. For 86 years, scientists could only imagine what other wonders it might yet yield.

But four photographs did survive, and in 1996, paleontologist Phil Currie used these snapshots to finally relocate Brown’s mysterious site. And the good news didn’t stop there: The bones of as many as 26 individual Albertosaurus were found lying in wait.

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Denver Museum of Nature & Science
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Construction Workers in Colorado Discover 66-Million-Year-Old Triceratops Skeleton
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Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Construction projects have yielded some pretty amazing ancient finds: ancient ports, Stone Age homes, forgotten cemeteries, burial grounds, and even the bones of King Richard III. Now, The Denver Post reports that workers in Thornton, Colorado, just north of Denver, recently discovered a 66-million-year-old adult triceratops skull, along with other bones, while breaking ground for the city's new public safety facility. It's an incredibly rare find as most of the fossils found in the region are about 12,000 years old.

Instead of digging on—which may have destroyed the skeleton—the workers contacted experts to take a closer look. Joe Sertich, curator of dinosaurs at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, was called to the scene to examine the bones.

"This is what we as curators dream about—getting a call about a possible fossil and confirming it's not just a dinosaur fossil, but a record-breaking one!" Sertich said in a statement.

Museum staff, construction staff, and museum volunteers work to excavate the Thornton triceratops skeleton on August 30, 2017.
Museum staff, construction staff, and museum volunteers work to excavate the skeleton on August 30, 2017.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science

So far, scientists and volunteer diggers have unearthed the skull, two horns, a portion of the dinosaur's frill, shoulder bones, the beak at the front of the lower jaw, and ribs and vertebrae. The skeleton appears to be separated, indicating that the dinosaur may have died and lain on the ground for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, according to The Washington Post. As it decayed, its bones and flesh fell apart, and other dinosaurs, like T. rex, may have even taken a nibble at the corpse.

Joe Sertich, curator of dinosaurs at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, speaks with a construction worker while leading the excavation in Thornton, Colorado of a newly discovered triceratops skeleton.
Joe Sertich, curator of dinosaurs at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, speaks with a construction worker while leading the excavation in Thornton, Colorado of a newly discovered triceratops skeleton.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Experts say the triceratops skeleton could be the most complete Cretaceous dinosaur ever discovered in the Front Range region, and one of the oldest fossils. They've also noted that the newly discovered dino fits a larger pattern: When found in the Denver area, triceratops are typically half the size of similar ones that once lived in the Dakotas and Montana.

A closeup of the triceratops fossil as it's unearthed in Thornton, Colorado.
A closeup of the triceratops fossil as it's unearthed.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science

"We don't really know why," Sertich said in a Facebook Live broadcast. "Even though we have hundreds of triceratops from the American West, we only have three good skulls. And this might be one of the best skeletons to tell us why Denver triceratops are smaller than all of their cousins everywhere else."

[h/t The Denver Post]

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© Zachary James Johnston, The Field Museum
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SUE the T. Rex Is Getting a Makeover
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© Zachary James Johnston, The Field Museum

Our lives are constantly changing—even those of us who are already dead. The beloved fossilized T. rex skeleton known as SUE will soon be treated to a makeover and new digs at The Field Museum in Chicago.

SUE’s move is motivated by more than just luxury; the museum needs to clear out its great hall to make room for the largest dinosaur ever discovered. A private donor has bestowed the museum with a full-size cast of the Argentinean titanosaur Patagotitan mayorum.

Illustration of a titanosaur cast in a great hall.
The Field Museum

The touchable 122-foot-long marvel will stretch across Stanley Field Hall and upward into the second story. SUE will be disassembled in 2018 and eventually relocated to a fancy new suite in another hall along with other fossil specimens.

Illustration comparing the size of a titanosaur, a human, and a T. rex.
The Field Museum

“At 40.5 feet long, she’s the world’s biggest T. rex, but in that giant hall, people sometimes remark that she’s smaller than they expected,” senior exhibitions project manager Hilary Hansen said in a statement.

“By putting her in her own gallery in our Evolving Planet exhibition, she’ll be put into the proper context of her fellow dinosaurs, and she’ll dominate the room.”

(SUE’s sex is unknown, but many museum staffers take a cue from the fossil’s ladylike name and use female pronouns.)

With the new setup comes a whole new look. The SUE we see today is incomplete; when the skeleton was assembled in 2000, dinosaur curators omitted one group of bones, unsure where to put them. They’ve since figured it out. The bones are gastralia, which cage the stomach area like a lower set of ribs.

Dinosaur gastralia arrayed  in a bed of sand.
© Zachary James Johnston, The Field Museum

T. rex had a bulging belly,” associate curator of dinosaurs Pete Makovicky said in the statement. “It wasn’t sleek and gazelle-like the way you might think.”

Over the last two decades since SUE’s assembly we’ve learned a lot about the way SUE and family looked and moved. Makovicky and his colleagues also plan to tinker with SUE’s posture so that upon the grand re-debut in 2019, “she’ll be walking rather than skulking.”

Or strutting, more accurately. The gloating dinosaur’s Twitter bio now reads “Private Suite Haver.”

Never one to be left out of the conversation, SUE issued a public comment, writing, “For years now, I've been pitching this to the Museum. A room with a better defensible position against velociraptor attacks and reduced exposure to possible meteorite collisions. Finally, the mammals in charge have come to their senses."

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