A Predator With Horns?

Why Carnotaurus was one of the most unusual meat-eaters ever found

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

Carnotaurus is but another strange dinosaur variation from South America.

Known from a nearly complete skeleton and an abundance of skin impressions, Carnotaurus is one of the most unusual meat-eaters ever found. Its skull was deep and narrow, giving its eyes a clear view to the front where it could focus on its prey. Above each eye was a large horn, somewhat like that of a bull, protruding to the sides. The forelimbs were extremely short, somewhat like T. rex, but with four fingers instead of two. The teeth are smaller than one might expect in such a large beast, leaving one to wonder about its ability to wrangle with sizable prey. Perhaps Carnotaurus feasted on smaller animals, or even scavenged the dead.

The skin impressions of Carnotaurus, a rare find for any meat-eater, show that the dinosaur's skin was studded with bony knobs and small beads, giving it an extremely tough hide.

Why did Carnotaurus have such prominent horns? The horns were most likely used for sparring with others of its kind, perhaps for dominance over a mate or a fresh kill.

Who Found Carnotaurus?

Argentina is rich with dinosaur fossils. Although the country's first dinosaurs were found in 1882, many of the most magnificent of this nation's unusual dinosaurs have been discovered more recently under the leadership of paleontologists Jose Bonaparte, Jaime Powell, Rudolfo Coria, Fernando Novas, and others. Dinosaurs from all three periods of the Mesozoic Era –– Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous –– have been found in Argentina.

Many of the best Argentinian dinosaur beds are found in the southern desert plains of Chubut Province in Patagonia. It was here that Jose Bonaparte identified the remains of Carnotaurus in 1985.

Bonaparte has brought many new dinosaurs to light. In addition to Carnotaurus, he has been instrumental in identifying such famous dinosaurs as Mussaurus (a baby), Saltasaurus (the armored sauropod), Abelisaurus, Noasaurus, Patagosaurus, and Riojasaurus.

Carnotaurus was a nearly complete specimen, providing excellent evidence for a family of large meat-eating giants that once ruled the southern hemisphere.

Copyright 1995. Courtesy of The Dinosaur Society, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation supporting dinosaur research and education. For more information concerning Dino Times, the Society's newsletter for kids, call 1-800-346-6366.

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  • Subjects:
    Archaeology, Dinosaurs