A Ferocious Carnotaurus

The image below is an illustration of the Late Cretaceous South American abelisaurid Carnotaurus (C. sastrei), by the renowned Chinese palaeoartist Zhao Chuang.  This is one of our favourite illustrations of the dinosaur known as “meat-eating bull”.

The Illustration of Carnotaurus (C. sastrei)

Carnotaurus illustrated by the renowned artist Zhao Chuang.

An illustration of the fearsome theropod dinosaur Carnotaurus by Zhao Chuang.

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang

The artwork (above), was produced as part of a series of commissioned pieces to illustrate the science/art world by Zhao Chuang and Yang Yang for PNSO (Peking Natural Science-Art Organisation).

Carnotaurus sastrei

Known from an almost complete skeleton found in Argentina, this large, carnivorous dinosaur was scientifically described in 1985.  Zhao Chuang has chosen to focus on the remarkable skull of this Late Cretaceous abelisaurid.  The head is short and blunt with two imposing horns positioned over the eye sockets sticking out sideways.  The deep skull contrasts with the slender lower jaw which for such a large dinosaur (estimated at more than seven metres in length), indicates a relatively weak bite.  For many years, Carnotaurus was regarded as a hunter of large prey, however, analysis of the bite force exerted by the jaws indicated a surprisingly weak bite for a carnivore weighing in excess of a tonne.  Research (Mazzeta et al 2009), indicated that this dinosaur could generate a bilateral bite force – measured on both sides of the jaw, of around 3,400 Newtons.  In contrast, the much smaller extant lion (Panthera leo) and the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) are capable of generating bite forces of at least 1.3 times the bite force calculated for Carnotaurus, even though these living carnivores are considerably smaller.

As to what Carnotaurus ate, this is open to speculation, but it could have specialised in catching smaller animals or perhaps it was a specialised scavenger, the narrow jaws proving adept at removing flesh from corpses.  Whatever, Carnotaurus consumed, we still take time out to admire this marvellous illustration by the very talented Zhao Chuang.

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