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Majungasaurus

Updated on December 8, 2017


Majungasaurus was a species of abelisaurid theropod dinosaur that lived in Madagascar from 70 to 65.5 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous Period. Like it's relative Carnotaurus, Majungasaurus had pitifully short arms and a snub-nose snout. It had a single short horn jutting out from the top of it's head along with a series of other smaller bumps along the top of it's head. It would have been a really nasty looking creature. Majungasaurus was 25 feet long in length and weighed about 1.5 tons. It is known mostly from several skulls and post cranial remains. It was first described by Depéret in 1896 as a Megalosaurus crenatissimus. Lavocat renamed the specimen Majungasaurus crenatissimus in 1955. It was found in Mahajanga, Madagascar. Majungasaurus was the top predator in it's environment. It is also known from direct fossil evidence that Majungasaurus was a cannibal.




Discovery and Naming

The first remains of Majungasaurus were uncovered by French paleontologist Charles Depéret. Depéret first described the theropod fossils from northwestern Madagascar in the Maevarano Formation next to the Betsiboka River in 1896. and were brought to the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1. Having found only two teeth one claw and several vertebra, Depéret mistakenly referred these remains to a species of Megalosaurus, which at the time was a general group composed of all types of unrelated large theropods. Depéret called the new species M. crenatissimus.This name is from the Latin word crenatus ("notched") and issimus ("most"), in reference to the serrations found on both the front and back edges of the teeth. Depéret later changed the species to the North American genus Dryptosaurus, another poorly understood species of theropod. It wasn't until 1955 when René Lavocat described theropod teeth from the same Maevarano Formation that matched those first teeth described by Depéret. However the curvature of the jaw bone showed this dinosaur was very different from both Megalosaurus and Dryptosaurus. Then in 1979 Hans-Dieter Sues and Philippe Taquet found dome-shaped skull fragments and misidentified the material as a new pachycephalosaur (Majungatholus atopus). This was reported the first finding of a pachycephalosaur in the Southern Hemisphere. Then in 1996 another expedition headed by paleontologist David W. Krause to the Maevarano Formation revealed a complete theropod skull preserved in excellent condition. The top of the skull shows a dome-shaped crown with a small horn jutting out of the middle of the skull. Majungatholus was reassigned to the abelisaurid type theropods in 1998.

Cannialism

There is direct evidence that Majungasaurus preyed on it own kind, as well as other dinosaurs in its environment. Majungasaurus fossils that show the teeth marks that match the spacing and shape of another Majungasaurus. Reasons for this cannibalism could be related to a severe drought on the island or a territorial dispute.Another possibility is that one Majungasaurus simply scavenged off a fallen one. We will probably never know for sure. Majungasaurus were not the only cannibals in the dinosaur kingdom; many theropods ocassionally preyed upon their own including, T-rex and Allosaurus.

Planet Dinosaur - Dinosaur Cannibalism - Majungasaurus

Environment

As it is today Madagascar was an island, having split from the Indian subcontinent around 20 million years before Majungasaurus. It was drifting northwards but still 10–15° on a more southern latitude during the cretaceous. The climate of Madagascar was semi-arid, with a strong wet season. As some parts of Madagascar are today, so it was then divided into mangrove swamps that were prone to periodic flooding, and debris flows at the beginning of the wet season. Fossil evidence shows us the burying of animals killed during the preceding dry season and provided a detailed preservation for paleontologists. Majungasaurus was the top predator on the Island of Madagascar in the late cretaceous period. All other dinosaurs within it's environment would live in fear of this creature. Majungasaurus shared it's environment with a variety of dinosaurs, including it's preferred prey Rapetosaurus a large titanosaurid sauropod, Rahonavis a small feathered Dromaeosaurid, and Masiakasaurus a small theropod related to Noasaurid.

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    • ChrisIndellicati profile imageAUTHOR

      ChrisIndellicati 

      6 years ago from New York, NY

      Dinosaurs were as varied as Mammal are today. There are probably many more species that haven't been found yet.

    • brackenb profile image

      brackenb 

      6 years ago

      I hadn't heard of this one before.

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