10 Rough Facts About Majungasaurus

Seventy million years ago, Madagascar’s top predator was a lumpy-headed oddball whose diet would have done Hannibal Lecter proud.

1. Majungasaurus practiced cannibalism. 

As far as we know, there weren’t any other large carnivores walking around on Majungasaurus' home turf, but many recovered Majungasaurus atopus bones had clearly been gnawed on by a meat-eating dinosaur—and a big one at that. What’s more, the incriminating bite marks perfectly match the teeth of this very same species, and the space between each wound lines up with M. atopus’ inter-tooth gaps.

You might assume the dinosaurs were merely fighting each other, but the evidence says otherwise. As paleontologist Scott Sampson explains in Dinosaur Odyssey, those scars “[couldn’t] have resulted from brief donnybrooks between competing adults, because many of the bites occur on limb bones” that would’ve been “inaccessible” to rivals in non-lethal combat.

2. Its skull exposed a 20-year-old mistake.

The first decent Majungasaurus skull appeared in 1996. Two decades before, in 1976, Philippe Taquet, a French dinosaur expert, got his hands on an incomplete cranial fossil from Madagascar’s Mahajanga province, where Majungasaurus had first been discovered eight decades prior. He and a colleague later mistook it for a dome-headed relative of the North American herbivore Pachycephalosaurus, whose skull was 9 to 10 inches thick. But the '96 noggin proved that Taquet’s beast (which he called Majungatholus) was actually Majungasaurus.

3. Jurassic World gave it a behind-the-scenes nod.

Apparently, the villain dino is part Majungasaurus. Called Indominus rex, the film's fearsome antagonist is a GMO whose horns were artificially derived from the DNA of “Carnotaurus, Majungasaurus, Rugops, and Giganotosaurus.” But bump is probably a better word for the lone protuberance that rested above and between Majungasaurus’ eyes.   

4. An injury or illness seems to have shortened one specimen’s tail.

Before it died, this poor dinosaur lost “at least 10” vertebrae near the tip somehow. Over 20 Majungasaurus with physical maladies are recognized, including another who’d broken a toe bone.

5. It was unusually stocky.

Relative to most theropods, Majungasaurus looks vertically challenged. Its legs are a bit shorter than average, giving the African killer a squat, stocky profile.

6. Majungasaurus’ eyes weren't exactly agile.

Roll your eyes. You’ve just used a part of your brain called the flocculus. According to a 2007 skull cavity examination, Majungasaurus might have had trouble with this maneuver. As indicated by the animal's cranial dimensions, it probably harbored a small floccular process. Presumably, that rendered quick eye movements impossible.

7. Long before Majungasaurus evolved, its native land separated from India.

Madagascar and the Indian subcontinent officially split somewhere between 83 and 88 million years ago. Both had once belonged to a huge continent called Gondwana, which also included Africa, South America, and the Arabian Peninsula, among others. Members of Majungasaurus’ family—the Abelisauridae—have been located on all five landmasses

8. It had big shoulder blades but teeny arms.

Go ahead and make fun of T. rex’s forelimbs—at least they weren’t this ridiculous. Majungasaurus’ lower arm bones, wrist, and almost nonexistent fingers are puny enough to make scientists all over the world scratch their heads. Sarah H. Burch of SUNY Geneseo says “grasping was out of the question—there’s no way this animal was doing much manipulation with such a reduced hand. The joint anatomy suggests great mobility at the elbow and wrist, but the individual digits probably could not have moved independently.”

9. It breathed like a bird.

Chickens breathe way more efficiently than we do. Avian lungs are attached to a series of air sacs in which the animals store extra oxygen. These keep fresh air in near-constant circulation, even during high-altitude flights. They’re also directly connected to various hollow bones: break open a dead bird’s spinal column, and you’ll find several vertebrae lined with extra air sacs. Special indentations on Majungasaurus’ backbones have demonstrated that it, too, possessed this apparatus.

10. Majungasaurus and its prehistoric neighbors inspired a charity.

David Krause is a paleontologist at Stony Brook University, where a faux Majungasaurus mount stands inside the administration lobby. Krause—who works in the school’s anatomical science department—has been digging in Madagascar since 1991, and helped uncover the skull mentioned earlier. He also proved integral to the discovery of a weird, crocodile-like plant-eater and a 10-pound frog that probably ate baby dinosaurs.

Krause and his colleagues have mostly worked in the same field in Madagascar throughout the years, and the local community has offered unwavering assistance. So Krause started looking for ways to give back. “[One] day,” he recounted to National Geographic, “I arranged for a meeting with the village leaders and asked them what we could do to help. Their #1 priority was an education for their children.” His team got the ball rolling immediately. “When they informed me that we could start by hiring a teacher, which costs about $500 a year, it was a no-brainer. I went back to camp, and we raised the teacher's salary on the spot.”

In 1998, Krause founded the Madagascar Ankizy Fund (named after the Malagasy word for children). This initiative has built schools and provided life-saving health care in one of the poorest countries on earth.

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What Would It Cost to Operate a Real Jurassic Park?
Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.
Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.

As the Jurassic Park franchise has demonstrated, trapping prehistoric monsters on an island with bite-sized tourists may not be the smartest idea (record-breaking box office numbers aside). On top of the safety concerns, the cost of running a Jurassic Park would raise its own set of pretty pricey issues. Energy supplier E.ON recently collaborated with physicists from Imperial College London to calculate how much energy the fictional attraction would eat up in the real world.

The infographic below borrows elements that appear in both the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World films. One of the most costly features in the park would be the aquarium for holding the massive marine reptiles. To keep the water heated and hospitable year-round, the park would need to pay an energy bill of close to $3 million a year.

Maintaining a pterosaur aviary would be an even more expensive endeavor. To come up with this cost, the researchers looked at the yearly amount of energy consumed by the Eden Project, a massive biome complex in the UK. Using that data, they concluded that a structure built to hold winged creatures bigger than any bird alive today would add up to $6.6 million a year in energy costs.

Other facilities they envisioned for the island include an egg incubator, embryo fridge, hotel, and emergency bunker. And of course, there would be electric fences running 24/7 to keep the genetic attractions separated from park guests. In total, the physicists estimated that the park would use 455 million kilowatt hours a year, or the equivalent of 30,000 average homes. That annual energy bill comes out to roughly $63 million.

Keep in mind that energy would still only make up one part of Jurassic Park's hypothetical budget—factoring in money for lawsuits would be a whole different story.

Map of dinosaur park.
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18 Things to Look for the Next Time You Watch Jurassic Park
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Twenty-five years ago, director Steven Spielberg created a movie that was 65 million years in the making. With cutting-edge CG effects and a rousing adventure story only the filmmaker behind Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark could conjure, Jurassic Park, based on the novel by author Michael Crichton, went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time at the time (today, it maintains the 17th position). Now, in celebration of the original film’s 25th anniversary and with the fifth installment of the dino franchise about to hit theaters, it’s time to look back to where it all began in case you missed a few things.

Here are 18 details to look out for next time you take a trip to Jurassic Park.

1. A CAMERAMAN PROTECTED JOPHERY ... AND HIS CAMERA.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

The film’s opening scene features the park game warden, Robert Muldoon, and a group of handlers attempting to transport velociraptors from a cage into their paddock, but it goes terribly wrong. Jophery, the “gatekeeper,” is thrown off the top of the cage as the alpha raptor attempts to escape.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

In the shot when Jophery falls toward the camera before being pulled into the cage and devoured by a pack of hungry dinos, the camera operator’s hand can be seen in the bottom right of the frame making sure the stuntperson doesn’t fall into the camera.

2. LIFE FINDS A WAY ... IN ALAN GRANT’S SEAT BELT.

The scene when the helicopter carrying Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), and John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) descends into Jurassic Park features a clever and unorthodox bit of foreshadowing.

When the copter hits a bit of turbulence—with Hammond giving the group a spirited "Yahoo!”—the occupants scramble to click their seat belts. Grant tries to buckle up, but finds two “female” ends, making it impossible to snap in for safety. After getting some verbal help from Hammond, Grant grabs both straps and ties them together as they come in for the rough landing.

Using a bit of resourcefulness, Grant goes against the odds to find a way to make it work—just like the dinosaurs in the park are able to reproduce despite being bred as females.

3. CGI MADE THE MOVIE’S DINOSAUR SUPERVISOR “EXTINCT.”

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

A bit of cheeky dialogue between Grant and Malcolm as the group makes their way into the park perfectly showcases their dueling personalities. When mulling over the implications of a park filled with living dinosaurs, the paleontologist opines, "I think we're out of a job," to which the chaotician responds, "Don't you mean extinct?"

The line is a deliberate reference to something effects pioneer Phil Tippett, who developed “go-motion” animation for the film, said to Spielberg before the director settled on primarily using groundbreaking CGI for the movie (“I think I’m extinct”). Instead of leaving the production, Tippett stayed on to serve as a consultant by helping the CG animators create realistic movements for the digital dinos.

4. JOHN HAMMOND’S JEEP GETS GREAT MILEAGE.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

Keep an eye out for the Jeeps that Hammond uses to buzz around and show off the park to his first guests. JP29 is the same truck used by the characters Gray and Zach to escape from the old section of the park in 2015’s Jurassic World.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

Grant and Ellie’s JP18 truck can also be seen in the garage in Jurassic World when Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard’s characters, Owen and Claire, try to escape from the Indominus rex.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures


Universal Pictures

5. THE NEXT JURASSIC PARK WAS SUPPOSED TO BE IN EUROPE.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

When Hammond pitches the grand ideas of the park to the group in the dining room—during the bragged-about meal of Chilean sea bass—corporate-focused slides can be seen in the background that suggest Hammond anticipated Jurassic Park becoming more popular than both “sports” and "zoos."

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

They also hint at Hammond’s “Future Attractions.” He was also planning to expand internationally to Jurassic Park Europe.

6. MR. DNA’S VOICE SHOULD SOUND FAMILIAR.

The animated Mr. DNA sequence impresses Grant and the gang because the little cartoon DNA strand explains exactly how dinosaurs were brought back from extinction, but animation fans should be impressed for a different reason.

The voice behind Mr. DNA is voiceover artist Greg Burson, who also provided the voices at various points for famous Looney Tunes characters like Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Pepe Le Pew. Burson was also one of the voiceover artists to voice Hanna-Barbera characters like Huckleberry Hound, QuickDraw McGraw, Snagglepuss and Yogi Bear.

7. THE VOICE YOU HEARD WAS, IN FACT, RICHARD KILEY.

Hammond gets to utter the famous phrase, “Welcome to Jurassic Park” after showing off the newly non-extinct creatures to Grant and Sattler, but we get to hear it again during the tour from the car’s virtual tour guide. “The voice you’re now hearing is Richard Kiley,” Hammond tells the group. “We spared no expense.”

Hammond spared no expense because Kiley, with his distinct baritone, was an esteemed actor of stage and screen who won Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Musical for Redhead in 1959 and Man of La Mancha in 1966, as well as three Emmys and two Golden Globes for his TV work.

Kiley was also mentioned as the tour guide in author Michael Crichton’s source novel, and, appropriately enough, voices the Jurassic Park Jungle River Cruise at Universal Studios in Orlando.

8. NEDRY IS A JAWS FAN.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

While Hammond berates Nedry (Wayne Knight) in the command center for the park’s problems, keep an eye on the computer programmer’s computer screen past all the garbage, Jolt Cola cans, and candy wrappers: He’s watching Spielberg’s seminal shark attack hit, Jaws.

9. NEDRY DRESSES LIKE THE GOONIES.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Reddit

It turns out that Jaws isn’t Nedry’s only Spielberg fandom, and that concealed dinosaur embryos in a fake shaving cream can aren’t the only thing Nedry is hiding.

The programmer’s wardrobe—with his Hawaiian shirt, Members Only jacket, and yellow rain slicker—is almost exactly the same as the clothes that Chunk, Mouth, and Mikey wear in the Spielberg-produced adventure classic The Goonies.

10. NEDRY’S DESK GIVES A NOD TO THE FATHER OF THE ATOMIC BOMB.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

The photo on Nedry’s computer isn’t some stern, pipe-smoking father figure; the little mushroom cloud doodle above the photo should let you know that it’s none other than J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project.

The nod carries a symbolic, cautionary tale significance: Much like Hammond, Oppenheimer also used fundamental science for his own gain. Or, as Malcolm said, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."

11. THE PARK’S CUTTING-EDGE SECURITY CAMERA FOOTAGE IS JUST A QUICKTIME VIDEO.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

When Nedry calls the dock worker while watching live security footage to coordinate his escape with the dinosaur embryos, the webcam seen on the screen is actually a Quicktime video instead of a live feed. The progress bar at the bottom of the desktop window, and the mouse cursor over the “Play” button, are dead giveaways.

12. JURASSIC PARK’S SCIENTISTS ARE GREAT AT GENETICS, BUT BAD AT SPELLING.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

When Nedry breaks into the embryo chamber to steal the individual dinosaur types, two of them are spelled incorrectly. “Stegasaurus” should be Stegosaurus and “Tyranosaurus” should be Tyrannosaurus.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

They’re not so great with numbers either: The faux shaving cream canister Nedry uses to steal the dinos off the island only holds 10 embryos even though during their meeting in San Jose, Dodson told Nedry to take 15 different species.

13. TIM MAKES SOME REAL-LIFE AND FAKE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS.

While fanboying out about getting to hang out with Dr. Alan Grant, Tim (Joseph Mazzello) presents alternate theories to Grant’s assertion that dinosaurs evolved into birds by citing a book by “a guy named Bakker.” This line refers to Robert T. Bakker, the real-life American paleontologist who helped shape the modern theory that some dinosaurs were endothermic (warm-blooded) and who served as an advisor on the film.

Tim can also be seen carrying Grant’s book, Dinosaur Detectives, a prop created for the film that supposedly features a foreword by Sir Richard Attenborough (the actor who plays Hammond), and co-written by Michael Backes, a real-life software developer who helped Crichton fact check the original novel and the guy who created the the animated computer graphics used in the movie's control room sequences.

14. OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR ARE ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE FROM WHERE THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO APPEAR.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

During Sattler and Muldoon’s daring escape with an injured Malcolm from a rampaging T. rex, the dinosaur comes so close to chomping on the driver’s side of their Jeep that the side mirror’s “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear” message can be seen. In reality, such a safety warning is only required on the opposite side because passenger mirrors are convex as a way to limit blind spots.

15. THE MERCHANDISE IN THE GIFT SHOP IS REAL.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

During the scene where Sattler and Hammond eat ice cream and debate the failure of the park, The Making of Jurassic Park book seen in the park’s fictional gift shop is a real book about the making of the movie, written by authors Don Shay and Jody Duncan.

16. THE RAPTOR IN THE KITCHEN NEEDED SOME HELP STANDING UP.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

The raptors in the movie may be smart enough to open doors, but they can’t stand on their own two feet. If you look to the back left of the raptor that opens the door to the kitchen while hunting for Lex and Tim, you can see a hand steady the raptor puppet so it doesn’t fall over. Once the scene cuts to two raptors in the kitchen those shots are largely CGI.

17. LOOK CLOSELY FOR THE DINO DNA ALL SPELLED OUT.

As Grant, Sattler, and the kids hide in the vents in the climactic velociraptor finale in the Visitor’s Center, the letters GATC can be seen reflected on the skin of one of the raptors searching for her prey. These letters represent the nucleobases that form the base pairs of DNA—a nod to the building blocks of life that created the raptors in the first place.

18. THERE’S AN INCREDIBLE DISAPPEARING RAPTOR.

Just in the nick of time in the movie’s finale, the T. rex snatches a pouncing raptor out of thin air and saves Grant and the gang. But if you look closely, a visual effects mistake causes the CGI raptor to disappear for a single frame and then reappear before the rex chomps down for the kill.

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