Theropod Thursday Double Feature begins with Carnotaurus at LACM

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With our pending departure from California, we’re adopting a Golden State theme for a lot of the features and specials over the next few weeks. And that includes today’s Theropod Thursday. It will be the first half of a double-feature that will also include a special Thursday make-up edition of T.rex Tuesday. Watch for it around 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern tonight. For Theropod Thursday, we’re featuring one of the most unusual and popular specimens at the Los Angeles County Musuem of Natural History - Carnotaurus sastrei.

Despite only having one full skeleton to its name, Carnotaurus (shown at left with Camptosaurus at LACM) is a powerhouse of theropod knowledge. The specimen was discovered in Argentina in 1984, along with an interesting and unique spiny sauropod called Amargasaurus. The single specimen was nearly complete, and fully articulated, meaning that the bones were found more or less as they would have been in real life. In addition, a number of skin impressions were found. All in all, C. sastrei is one of the most well known of all Southern Hemisphere theropods.

Carnotaurus hails from the late Cretaceous, around 72-69.9 million years ago. It is a member of the Abelisaur family, with stubby, almost vestigial upper limbs. Based on the fused skull segments among other signs, the specimen appears to be an adult. It was estimated to be around 7.8 meters in length, but estimates on its weight have ranged from 1,350kg to 2,100kg in various studies. Though the fossilized horn cores are relatively short, it is thought that they may have included longer keratin surfaces similar to cow horns. Theories about the horns’ purpose include mating, male dominance, and hunting. The holoype, MACN-CH 894, is displayed at the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences in Buenos Aires. Casts are found in museums all over the world - including our friend at the LACM.