The ‘carnivorous bull’ dinosaur gets a makeover! Scientists reconstruct a terrifying 26ft-long creature based on an analysis of its fossilised skin – revealing a complex coat of scales, studs, thorns, bumps and wrinkles

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  • The only known specimen ‘Carnotaurus’ was discovered in Argentina in 1984
  • The horned creature must have reached 26 feet in length
  • Well preserved, the specimen includes not only bones but also fossilized skin
  • New analysis of skin reveals it was more complicated than we thought

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Scientists paint a new picture of Carnotaurus – the ‘carnivorous bull’ dinosaur with an intricate coat of scales, studs, thorns, bumps and wrinkles.

The updated reconstruction comes after paleontologists led by Unidad Ezecutora Lillo in Argentina closely examined its fossilized skin.

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Named for its horned skull, the only known specimen of Carnotaurus was found by paleontologist José Bonaparte in 1984 in his home country of Argentina.

Found on a farm near Bajda Moreno in Chubut province, the 26-feet-long fossil skeleton was also unusually well preserved, with sheets of flaky skin on it.

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This made Carnotaurus – which lived 71 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous period – the first meat-eating dinosaur to be found with its skin on.

Scientists paint a new picture of Carnotaurus – the ‘carnivorous bull’ dinosaur – with an intricate coat of scale, studs, thorns, bumps and wrinkles, as depicted

The updated reconstruction comes after paleontologists led by Unidad Ezecutora Lillo in Argentina closely examined its fossilized skin.  Image: A natural, negative relief pattern of skin on the right side of the anterior tail region of Carnotaurus, with close-up

The updated reconstruction comes after paleontologists led by Unidad Ezecutora Lillo in Argentina closely examined its fossilized skin. Image: A natural, negative relief pattern of skin on the right side of the anterior tail region of Carnotaurus, with close-up

Named for its horned skull, the only known specimen of Carnotaurus was found by paleontologist José Bonaparte in 1984 in his home country of Argentina.  Pictured: then-graduate student Guillermo Rougier poses next to a recently found Carnotaurus skull

Named for its horned skull, the only known specimen of Carnotaurus was found by paleontologist José Bonaparte in 1984 in his home country of Argentina. Pictured: then-graduate student Guillermo Rougier poses next to a recently found Carnotaurus skull

carnotaurus position

Species: carnotaurus sastrei

used to live: 71 million years ago

Location: Argentina

Length: Around. 26 feet (8 meters)

Weight: 1.35 Tons

Notable Features: Thick horns above the eyes, rest of the forelimbs and thin hind limbs, which probably made it a fast runner.

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The skin of Carnotaurus was analyzed by paleontologists Christoph Hendricks of the Unidad Ezecutora Lillo in Argentina and Phil Bell of the University of New England, Australia.

In contrast to previous (and brief) studies of dinosaur skin, the two found no evidence that the scales were laid out in irregular rows, or that they changed shape depending on their anatomical location, as in some modern lizards. Has been observed.

‘Looking at the skin from the shoulder, abdomen and tail regions, we found this dinosaur’s skin was more diverse than previously thought,’ Dr Hendrix said.

They include, he said, ‘large and randomly distributed conical studs surrounded by a network of small elongated, diamond-shaped or sub-spherical scales.’

The diamond-shaped scales are similar to those seen on the skins of contemporary tyrannosaurids.

The largest scales on the Carnotaurus (feature scale) were found dotted along the creature’s thorax as well as its tail.

According to Dr Bell, an expert in dinosaur skin, the large studs and small scales seen on the Carnotaurus specimen are similar to those seen on the spiny devil lizard that lives in the Australian outback today.

And, the two explained, like modern reptiles, Carnotaurus may have imported scales to help regulate body temperature.

Unlike many recently discovered dinosaur specimens—particularly those from China—Carnotaurus was completely scaly and showed no evidence of game feathers.

Unlike previous (and brief) studies of dinosaur skin, the researchers found no evidence that the scales were laid out in irregular rows—or that they changed shape depending on their anatomical location, as in some modern lizards. Has been observed.  Image: An artist's impression of what Carnotaurus would have looked like in life

Unlike previous (and brief) studies of dinosaur skin, the researchers found no evidence that the scales were laid out in irregular rows—or that they changed shape depending on their anatomical location, as in some modern lizards. Has been observed. Image: An artist’s impression of what Carnotaurus would have looked like in life

According to Dr Bell - who specializes in dinosaur skin - the large studs and small scales seen on the Carnotaurus specimen resembled those of the spiny devil lizard (pictured in close-up above) that live in the Australian outback today.

According to Dr Bell – who specializes in dinosaur skin – the large studs and small scales seen on the Carnotaurus specimen resembled those of the spiny devil lizard (pictured in close-up above) that live in the Australian outback today.

'Looking at the skin from the shoulder, abdomen and tail regions, we found this dinosaur's skin was more diverse than previously thought,' Dr Hendrix said.  Image: Close-up photos of the scale on Carnotaurus (top row) with other dinosaur species

‘Looking at the skin from the shoulder, abdomen and tail regions, we found this dinosaur’s skin was more diverse than previously thought,’ Dr Hendrix said. Image: Close-up photos of the scale on Carnotaurus (top row) with other dinosaur species

Exactly why Carnotaurus had such a diverse range of large and small scales, researchers are not entirely sure.

Back in 1997, researchers proposed that some of the large, cone-shaped scales on dinosaurs may have provided ‘some degree of protection during collisions’.

However, Drs Bell and Hendrix said their analysis suggests that these scales may have done little to protect Carnotaurus from being bitten.

Instead, they propose, ‘In Carnotaurus and more widely among dinosaurs, the feature scale may have simply served a display/chromatic function.’

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Cretaceous Research.

The only known specimen of Carnotaurus was discovered by paleontologist José Bonaparte in 1984 on a farm near Bajada Moreno in Chubut Province.  The 26-foot-long fossil skeleton was also unusually preserved, with sheets of its scaly skin

The only known specimen of Carnotaurus was discovered by paleontologist José Bonaparte in 1984 on a farm near Bajada Moreno in Chubut Province. The 26-foot-long fossil skeleton was also unusually preserved, with sheets of its scaly skin

How did the dinosaurs become extinct about 66 million years ago?

Dinosaurs ruled and dominated the Earth about 66 million years ago, before suddenly becoming extinct.

The Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event is the name given to this mass extinction.

For many years it was believed that the changing climate destroyed the food chain of the giant reptiles.

In the 1980s, paleontologists discovered a layer of iridium.

It is an element that is rare on Earth but is found in huge quantities in space.

When it was dated, it corresponded to the exact time when …

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