Meet one of the weirdest dinosaurs to have walked the Earth
The Carnotaurus was one of the Late Cretaceous period’s most feared predators. It once stalked across the land with its bright, beady eyes, box-shaped head and distinctive bull-like horns. Standing around four metres tall and nine metres long, these unusual-looking giant theropods were the distant South American cousins of the T-rex.
The Carnotaurus’ most distinctive feature, however, is its comical – and probably useless – tiny arms. While these wouldn’t have made it any less ferocious if you were confronted with one, they do pose an evolutionary puzzle for palaeontologists today (see boxout opposite).
Only one Carnotaurus fossil has ever been discovered, unearthed in Argentina by palaeontologist Jose Bonaparte in 1985. However, it is almost a full skeleton and impressively detailed – including fossilised impressions of its skin in the surrounding Earth – making it a very rare find indeed. The remains have given palaeontologists a remarkable insight into the Carnotaurus’ anatomy, posture, habitat and diet.
It’s not hard to see why palaeontologists chose the name Carnotaurus, meaning ‘meat-eating bull’. Its distinctive horns are thought to have been used by males to fight one another, literally butting heads when competing for territory or to impress females.
Like many other large theropods, Carnotaurus were carnivores and so had the sharp teeth to match. If their terrifying backwards-curving, flesh-tearing teeth were not enough to scare you, researchers suspect that the crafty Carnotaurus was also one of the most intelligent theropods – it could definitely outrun you, and it may have even been able to outsmart you.