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 Majungasaurus crenatissimus

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PostSubject: Majungasaurus crenatissimus   Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:30 pm

Majungasaurus crenatissimus



Fossil range: Late Cretaceous, 70–65 Ma

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Superorder: Dinosauria
Order: Saurischia
Suborder: Theropoda
Infraorder: Ceratosauria
Family: Abelisauridae
Genus: Majungasaurus
Species: Majungasaurus crenatissimus

Majungasaurus is a genus of abelisaurid theropod dinosaur that lived in Madagascar from 70 to 65 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous Period. Only one species (M. crenatissimus) has been identified.

Like other abelisaurids, Majungasaurus was a bipedal predator with a short snout. Although the forelimbs are not completely known, they were very short, while the hindlimbs were longer and very stocky. It can be distinguished from other abelisaurids by its wider skull, the very rough texture and thickened bone on the top of its snout, and the single rounded horn on the roof of its skull, which was originally mistaken for the dome of a pachycephalosaur. It also had more teeth in both upper and lower jaws than most abelisaurids.

Known from several well-preserved skulls and abundant skeletal material, Majungasaurus has recently become one of the best-studied theropod dinosaurs from the Southern Hemisphere. It appears to be most closely related to abelisaurids from India rather than South America or continental Africa, a fact which has important biogeographical implications. Majungasaurus was the apex predator in its ecosystem, mainly preying on sauropods like Rapetosaurus, and is also the only dinosaur for which direct evidence of cannibalism is known.

Majungasaurus was a medium-sized theropod that typically measured 6–7 meters (20–23 ft) in length, including its tail. Fragmentary remains of larger individuals indicate that some adults reached lengths of more than 8 meters (26 ft). Scientists estimate that an average adult Majungasaurus weighed more than 1100 kilograms (2400 lb), although the largest animals would have weighed more. Its 8–9 meter (26–30 ft) relative Carnotaurus has been estimated to weigh 1500 kilograms (3300 lb).

Scientists have suggested that the unique skull shape of Majungasaurus and other abelisaurids indicate different predatory habits than other theropods. Whereas most theropods were characterized by long, low skulls of narrow width, abelisaurid skulls were taller and wider, and often shorter in length as well. The narrow skulls of other theropods were well-equipped to withstand the vertical stress of a powerful bite, but not as good at withstanding torsion (twisting). In comparison to modern mammalian predators, most theropods may have used a strategy similar in some ways to that of long- and narrow-snouted canids, with the delivery of many bites weakening the prey animal.

Abelisaurids, especially Majungasaurus, may instead have been adapted for a feeding strategy more similar to modern felids, with short and broad snouts, that bite once and hold on until the prey is subdued. Majungasaurus had an even broader snout than other abelisaurids, and other aspects of its anatomy may also support the bite-and-hold hypothesis.

Although sauropods may have been the prey of choice for Majungasaurus, recent discoveries in Madagascar indicate another surprising component of its diet: other Majungasaurus. Numerous bones of Majungasaurus have been discovered bearing tooth marks identical to those found on sauropod bones from the same localities. These marks have the same spacing as teeth in Majungasaurus jaws, are of the same size as Majungasaurus teeth, and contain smaller notches consistent with the serrations on those teeth. As Majungasaurus is the only large theropod known from the area, the simplest explanation is that it was feeding on other members of its own species. Suggestions that the Triassic Coelophysis was a cannibal have been recently disproven, leaving Majungasaurus as the only non-avian theropod with confirmed cannibalistic tendencies, although there is some evidence that cannibalism may have occurred in other species as well.

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