Scientists reveal the fossilised skin of a bull-like carnivorous dinosaur

Based on the scaly skin, artists reconstruct Carnotaurus. Credit: Jake Baardse
A pair of Australian and Belgian palaeontologists have given a new life to one of the most bizarre carnivorous dinosaurs ever found.

Jos Bonaparte, a prominent Argentine paleontologist, discovered the remarkable fossil in 1984. He named it Carnotaurus (which translates to "carnivorous bull") because of its unusual skull and large horns.

The skeleton was found in Chubut Province, Patagonia. It was preserved with sheets of its scaly skin. While scientists knew that other dinosaurs could be scaly, Carnotaurus was actually the first dinosaur to be able to eat meat.

While a lot of scientists had examined the fossilized skin, not many had done detailed research. Dr. Christophe Hendrickx, Palaeontologist at the Unidad Ejecutora Lillo San Miguel de Tucumn who led the current study, said that "by looking at the skin in the shoulders, belly, and tail regions, it was discovered that the skin of this dinosaur consisted of large conical studs distributed randomly, surrounded by small, elongated, or subcircular scales."

Hendrickx collaborated with Dr. Phil Bell from the University of New England, Australia, who pointed out that the Carnotaurus' large studs, and small scales, are reminiscent of the Outback devil lizard.

The 8-meter-long Carnotaurus, which was much shorter than other feathered dinosaurs discovered, especially from China, was completely scaly and had no feathers. Scientists speculate that the scales of an active predator would have helped regulate the animal's body temperature. This is similar to modern reptiles.

The journal Cretaceous Research published the study.

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More information: Christophe Hendrickx and colleagues, The scaly skins of the abelisaurid Carnotaurus (Theropoda, Ceratosauria), from the Upper Cretaceous in Patagonia, Cretaceous research (2021). Information from Cretaceous Research Christophe Hendrickx and colleagues, The scaly skin abelisaurid Carnotaurus (Theropoda Ceratosauria), Upper Cretaceous Patagonia, (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2021.104994

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