Old Earth Ministries Online Dinosaur Curriculum

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Lesson 11 - Carnotaurus

Carnotaurus, meaning "meat (eating)-bull", referring to its distinct bull-like horns (Latin carne = flesh + Greek tauros = bull) was a large predatory dinosaur, with horns vaguely resembling a bull's. Only one species, Carnotaurus sastrei has been described so far.

Carnotaurus lived in Patagonia, Argentina (La Colonia Formation) during the Late Albian and Cenomanian stage of the Cretaceous, and was discovered by José F. Bonaparte, who has uncovered many other South American dinosaurs.

Carnotaurus scale

(Picture Source)


Quick Facts


Length:  25 feet

Height:  13 feet at hips

Weight:  5,800 lbs

Date Range:  100 Ma, Albian-Cenomanian Age, Cretaceous Period


Skeleton, Natural History Museum, London
(From Wikipedia)

Carnotaurus at LA Natural History Museum (Picture Source)

Carnotaurus was a large theropod, about 7.6 m (25 ft) in length, with weights varying between 1,488 kg and 2,626 kg (1.6-2.9 short tons), depending on the individual. The most distinctive features of Carnotaurus are the two thick horns above the eyes, and the extremely reduced forelimbs with four basic digits, though only the middle two of these ended in finger bones, while the fourth was splint-like and may have represented an external 'spur.' The fingers themselves were fused and immobile, and lacked claws. It is also characterized by its unusually long neck (compared to other abelisaurs), and its small head with box-shaped jaws. The eyes of Carnotaurus faced forward, which is unusual in a dinosaur, and may indicate binocular vision and depth perception.

There is a rather puzzling contrast between Carnotaurus’ deep, robust-looking skull and its shallow, slender lower jaw. So far no-one has worked out what this might imply about its methods of feeding.

A single nearly complete skeleton has been described including impressions of skin along almost the entire right side, that show Carnotaurus lacked feathers, unlike the more advanced coelurosaurian theropods. Instead, the skin is lined with rows of bumps, which become larger toward the spine.

Related Dinosaurs

The type species Carnotaurus sastrei is the only known species. Its closest relatives include Aucasaurus (Argentina), Majungasaurus (Madagascar), and Rajasaurus (India). Together, these dinosaurs form the subfamily Carnotaurinae in the family Abelisauridae. Among the carnotaurines, Carnotaurus is most closely related to Aucasaurus, and together these two genera form the tribe Carnotaurini.



Aucasaurus skeleton (From Wikipedia)

Aucasaurus was a medium-sized theropod dinosaur from Argentina that lived during the Santonian stage (Anacleto Formation). It was smaller than the related Carnotaurus, although more derived in some ways, such as its extremely reduced arms and almost total lack of fingers. The type skeleton is complete to the thirteenth caudal vertebra, and so is relatively well understood, and is the most complete abelisaurid yet described. However, the skull is damaged, causing some paleontologists to speculate that it was involved in a fight shortly prior to death.


Rajasaurus (meaning "prince" or "princely lizard") is a carnivorous abelisaurian


Artist's depiction of Rajasaurus narmadensis, with two Isisaurus colberti in the background  (Picture Source

 dinosaur with an unusual head crest. Between 1982 and 1984, its fossilized bones were discovered by Suresh Srivastava of the Geological Survey of India (GSI). Excavated from the Narmada River valley in Rahioli in the Kheda district of Gujarat, India, the find was announced as a new genus of dinosaur by American and Indian scientists on August 13, 2003.

Rajasaurus was an abelisaurid, a member of a group of theropod predators known to have lived only on landmasses that were part of the supercontinent Gondwana, such as Africa, India, Madagascar, and South America.   Rajasaurus is distinguished from other genera by its single nasal-frontal horn, the proportions of its supratemporal fenestrae (holes in the upper rear of the skull), and the form of the ilia (principle bones of the hip).

In Popular Culture

Since the mid-1990s, Carnotaurus has been featured occasionally in the popular media. One of its earliest prominent roles in fiction was the 1995 sequel to Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton's The Lost World. In the novel, Carnotaurus was portrayed as having the (completely fictional) ability to change its color to blend into the background, like a chameleon or a cuttlefish. While it did not appear in the 1997 film adaptation of the novel, Carnotaurus subsequently appeared in numerous tie-ins to the Jurassic Park franchise, including several video games. Another prominent movie role for Carnotaurus came with the 2000 Walt Disney animated film Dinosaur, which featured two Carnotaurus attacking a large herd of herbivorous dinosaurs. The Carnotaurus in the film were much larger than the real life animal, scaled up to proportions more closely resembling the giant theropod Tyrannosaurus. In reality, Carnotaurus was even smaller than Iguanodon, the main dinosaur featured in the Disney picture. A Dinosaur thrill ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World, also features audio-animatronics of a Carnotaurus, in addition to a cast of other dinosaurs.

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Bay State Replicas - 1/4th scale Carnotaur skull