|Ceratosaurus nasicornis by Christopher DiPiazza|
Ceratosaurus was a meat-eating dinosaur that lived during the late Jurassic, about 150 millon years ago in what is now Utah and Colorado, USA. As an adult it would have measured about twenty feet from nose to tail. Ceratosaurus translates to "Horned reptile/lizard" and refers to the horn-like protrusion on the animal's snout. This was in fact, not really a horn as much as it was a crest. Originally scientists believed this dinosaur would have used that little bump as a weapon. Problem is it is just way too thin and delicate for that sort of rough-housing. Since then, most paleontologists agree that it was most likely just a display adaptation. It also had two smaller bony crests in front of its eyes.
|Bronze cast of a Ceratosaurus skull on display at the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum in Tucumcari new Mexico.|
In addition to the horns, Ceratosaurus had a few other unique characteristics amongst theropod dinosaurs. It had a row of small bony plates, called osteoderms, running down the center of its back. Its tail was particularly deep and flattened laterally, leading some scientists to believe that Ceratosaurus may have been a decent swimmer. (although there is little other evidence that suggests this) It had short, powerful arms with four fingers on each hand and its teeth were the longest proportionally to the rest of its body out of any dinosaur. All of this leaves us with a cool, yet strange theropod.
|Almost-complete(no arms!) Ceratosaurus skeletal mount on display at the National Museum in Washington D.C.. Note the small osteoderms over the back.|
Ceratosaurus bones have been found in the same formations as other, larger Jurassic meat eaters, like Allosaurus and Torvosaurus. Most scientists agree that Ceratosaurus may have specialized in hunting a different kind of prey than its giant contemporaries, perhaps going after smaller animals, rather than giant sauropods and heavily-armed stegosaurs. This is further supported by the fact that Ceratosaurus bones are particularly less common than most of the other dinosaurs known from the Late Jurassic of North America. This could mean that Ceratosaurus typically lived in habitats different from the rest of those dinosaurs where fossilization didn't take place as easily.
That's all for this week! As always feel free to comment below or on our facebook page. Want to see a particular prehistoric beastie reviewed? Let me know and I'll make it happen!
Foster, John (2007). "Gargantuan to Minuscule: The Morrison Menagerie, Part II". Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World. Indiana University Press. pp. 162–242. ISBN 0-253-34870-6.
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Marsh, O.C. (1884). "Principal characters of American Jurassic dinosaurs, part VIII: The order Theropoda". American Journal of Science 27 (160): 329–340.
Rowe, T.; Gauthier, J. (1990). "Ceratosauria". In Weishampel, D.B.; Dodson, P.; Osmólska, H. The Dinosauria. University of California Press. pp. 151–168. ISBN 0-520-06726-6.