Fossil Left Forgotten In Museum Drawer Turns Out To Be Abelisaur — Carnivorous Dinosaur Was As Big As A Bus

A once-neglected fossil, thrown in a museum drawer, belonged to Abelisaur, a newly identified dinosaur. The abelisaur was a carnivorous dinosaur. At roughly the size of a double-decker bus, the dinosaur roamed the earth about 95 million years ago.

A new dinosaur was identified recently after a fossilized bone was found in a drawer of Museum of Geology and Palaeontology in Palermo, Italy. The bone, identified as a femur or thigh bone, was discovered by Alessandro Chiarenza, who belongs to the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London. After the discovery of the bone, Chiarenza, along with Andrea Cau from the University of Bologna, were given permission to analyze it, reported the Daily Mail.

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The analysis of the long-forgotten femur bone revealed just how large a predatory dinosaur, called an abelisaur, might have gotten, reported Red Orbit. Abelisauridae was a group of carnivorous dinosaurs. It seems the group was quite unique in appearance. Researchers feel they were probably covered in feathers. The fossil originated from a sedimentary outcrop in Morocco called the Kem Kem Beds. The region is a hotbed for dinosaur research, and is littered with giant predatory dinosaur fossils. Speaking about the discovery, Chiarenza, a Ph.D. student and a paleontologist at the college, said the following.

“Smaller abelisaur fossils have been previously found by paleontologists, but this find shows how truly huge these flesh eating predators had become. Their appearance may have looked a bit odd as they were probably covered in feathers with tiny, useless forelimbs, but make no mistake they were fearsome killers in their time.”

The abelisaur lived during the Cretaceous era, reported Yahoo. Using the femur bone as base, researchers extrapolated the shape, size and weight distribution of the abelisaur. Researchers estimate at its peak, the dinosaur could have been 30ft (9m) long. At 20 feet, the dinosaur wasn’t a giant, and weighed between one and two tons. Based on the design of the bone, it is clear that the dinosaur had very short forelimbs, which wouldn’t have been much practical. However, with a short, deep face and razor sharp rows of teeth, coupled with muscular hind limbs, the dinosaur was a skilled and ruthless predator.

Researchers are confident the creature lived in North Africa about 95 million years ago. The region was a lush green savannah covered in rivers and mangrove swamps. It was an ideal hunting ground for the abelisaur. It must have ruled the southern hemisphere, killing a variety of prey including aquatic animals like turtles, crocodiles, and large fish. Interestingly, given the agility the dinosaur possessed, it may have made other smaller, herbivorous dinosaurs its prey too.

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Given the past discoveries, researchers believe the abelisaur existed at the same time as another ferocious predator, the Tyrannosaurus Rex. However, the much larger tyrannosaur remained restricted largely to the northern hemisphere, giving the abelisaur ample access to food in the south.

Incidentally, many among the researchers are divided over the co-existence theory. Referred to as Stromer’s Riddle, in honor the German paleontologist Ernst Stromer, paleontologists have been perplexed about how abelisaur lived alongside five other groupings of predatory dinosaurs. How could they have co-existed and not hunted each other into extinction is the primary question.

While the discovery of the abelisaur’s femur bone hasn’t solved the enigma, researchers hope that it might just point them in the right direction, shared Chiarenza.

“This fossil find, along with the accumulated wealth of previous studies, is helping to solve the question of whether abelisaur may have co-existed with a range of other predators in the same region. Rather than sharing the same environment, which the jumbled up fossil records may be leading us to believe, we think these creatures probably lived far away from one another in different types of environments.”

[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]