The Thirteen Dinosaurs of HALLOWEEN (Part One)
By Dalek62771, Head Researcher at DPGPRC
It’s that time of year again, when small versions of adults dress up as scary as possible, and try to get free candy - and the awesome sugar rush and property damage that sometimes follows, to the consternation of parents everywhere… But did you know that some dinos actually were pretty creepy-looking, or just plain weird? To these dinos, Halloween was EVERY DAY! Here’s the first eight of 13 of them (a good round UNlucky number) to start the Halloween season off right.
Starting off, we have a little backstory to this first one. It was found in New Mexico’s Ghost Ranch Quarry, which is reportedly haunted - although no one’s actually stepped up to verify these claims to my knowledge. It still makes it creepier, when you see what they found:
“AAAAAAAAGH!!! NOSFERATU LIVES!!!”
They named this one after the resident malevolent spirits known to inhabit the quarry. Spoooooooky!
So here we go with:
13. Daemonosaurus Chauliodus
Found in 2011, this one shook up preconcieved notions about theropods in the Triassic. Instead of the slender, shallow skulls typically found in early theropods, this one had a deep skull and gnarly oversized teeth protruding from the partially crushed remains. Even though the species name means “Buck-toothed”, and certainly makes this animal seem a bit derpy, it was anything but. With serrated fangs and very tough jaws, this thing had a powerful bite.
And it was cute enough, until it got close enough to eat your soul…
Unfortunately, this creature seems to have been an evolutionary dead-end kid. As Ian Malcolm would say, “Looking at this dinosaur gives us a real view of chaos theory. All of the possible combinations to choose from, and all of the possible outcomes for its future all depend on the whim of chaos.”
So far, no connection between this dinosaur and any other theropod in the Jurassic or Cretaceous have been found, and none are likely to be found, as it seems that only so far one specimen has been unearthed, and it was partial.
12. Torvosaurus Tanneri
As long as a modern-day Orca whale (30 ft/9m), this creature’s exact family lineage is in dispute. It has features of Megalosaurids, but also has distinct features of other types of theropod. It was found in the Morrison Formation, and also in Portugal - and seems to be the biggest (if not rarest) giant land predator of its time in the late Jurassic. If it is found to truly be a Megalosaur, it would be the biggest one ever found.
As big as an Allosaurus, but heavier (about the weight of a hippo), this monster had small but powerful arms, large claws, and a skull that was up to 1.5m long.
Sooo… Pants-poopingly big.
So far, partial remains of this beast have surfaced, so the debate remains as to where it belonged in the many different dinosaur genera. Although the name Torvosaurus means “Savage Lizard”, one of the other points of debate is whether it was a scavenger, or an active hunter.
11. Ceratosaurus Nasicornis
Found in the 1870s-1890s during the infamous “Bone Wars”, this predator was a prolific hunter of the American southwest in the Late Jurassic period. It was an early ancestor of the Abelisaurids, and quite possibly the most dragon-esque dinosaur described: Horn on its nose, a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth, and bony bumps along its back (which was unique for theropods - armor plating of any kind wasn’t really necessary).
This dinosaur probably wasn’t a very active predator, since that niche was taken by the larger carnivores like Allosaurus and Saurophaganax. While they hunted larger prey like sauropods or Stegosaurs, Ceratosaurus seems to have been equipped to handle a semi-aquatic hunting style.
Its tail was deep and pretty flexible, and this would have allowed it to scull through the water in search of fish or small crocs. It also seems that Ceratosaurs were scavengers as well, since their tooth marks have been found on sauropod bones.
As far as the horn on the nose - that most likely was just for display, not for combat, as it was too fragile.
10. Becklespinax Altispinax
This one is still a mystery, even after 150 years. The only remains ever found so far have been three tall-spined vertebrae that for years had been mistaken for Megalosaurus (in fact, the statues at the Crystal Palace in London feature a distinct hump between the quadrupedal “Megalosaur”’s shoulders).
More recent suspicions of this creature being another member of the Spinosaur family have also been silenced. It is possible, but to be honest, the vertebrae look more like those of Allosauroids (distantly related to Allosaurus - sharing the same features, but evolving along a different path).
What we do know for sure is that Becklespinax was a medium-sized theropod, possibly hunting small or medium sized sauropods. It was estimated that this animal reached 26ft/8m in length fully grown, based on the size of the remains.
9. Tyrannotitan Chubutensis
Not a Tyrannosaur, but a gigantic Carcharodontosaurid from Argentina. Little is known about this fearsome creature, as the remains were only unearthed in 2005, and briefly described. The name was given to place emphasis on the size of the thing - at 43ft/13m in length, it was larger than Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Definitely not something you’d want to see coming toward you in a dark alleyway. It also seems that even though Tyrannotitan was a Carcharodontosaurid, it was much earlier and primitive than either Carcharodontosaurus or Giganotosaurus.
8. Giganotosaurus Carolinii
Found in 1993, this dinosaur was considered the largest land predator known (until the discovery of Tyrannotitan, that is).
Imagine something that has a skull the length of a fully grown man (6ft/1.8m), and a body the size of a bus (43ft/13m), huge jaws filled with teeth designed to slice meat from prey, and you have a wide-awake nightmare. At least to the sauropods this thing fed on, like Andesaurus, it was just that.
Bad news for those wanting to see a deathmatch between a Giganoto versus a Rex - Both animals were separated by 30 million years, so neither of them lived at the same time - or in the same hemisphere.
7. Zhuchengtyrannus Magnus
The “Tyrant of Zhucheng” was discovered accidentally in Zhucheng, China back in 2011. The city of Zhucheng is known locally as “Dinosaur City”, and has been deemed an important site as far back as 1960. It gained new importance in 2008 when the remains of 7600 creatures were unearthed that year.
The story of Zhuchengtyrannus’ discovery begins with a building site. It seems that they had decided to build a museum to house the finest specimens found at the dig site, when they stumbled upon more remains - this time those of a giant predator! From the partial remains that were uncovered by the excavation, we were able to determine that this was a new species of Asian Tyrannosaur that would have been a giant. It lived in the Late Cretaceous, was approximately 36ft in length, possessed sharp, curved 4in. teeth, and like others of its genus, it would have had tiny, two-fingered hands and powerful jaws that could bite right through bone.
6. Masiakasaurus Knopfleri
Named after Dire Straits’ frontman Mark Knopfler (the dig site crew was listening to Dire Straits while working), this very scary looking chainsaw-faced predator of Madagascar was actually related to Carnotaurus and his family, the Abelisaurids. Masiakasaurus belonged to a subgroup called the Noasaurids, which branched away from the Abelisaurs at one point in their evolution.
At first, they had no idea that what they had found was even a dinosaur. When they examined the jaw, they discovered that while the first four teeth sort of jut outward towards a horizontal posture, the back teeth were more typical of a theropod. So why did Masiakasaurus’ jaws bork outward, making it look like someone smashed its face with a brick? Whenever we look at oddities like this, we have to consider the behavior of animals that are similar, and live today. In the case of Masiakasaurus, the odd dental structure was probably somewhat akin to shrew opossums, which use their teeth to prong insects, and then use the back teeth to chew. Or this could have been an adaptation for fishing.
It was described in 2001 after being discovered in Madagascar (the word “Masiaka” in the Malagasy language means “violent” or “vicious”). another find in 2011 revealed over two-thirds of the skeleton, helping scientists to understand this animal. Other creatures found in Madagascar include Simosuchus, which was a tiny, pug-nosed vegan croc, Rahonavis, which was a dromaeosaurid raptor which was capable of gliding flight, and Majungasurus, an Abelisaurid which was known for its own creepy behavior - CANNIBALISM.
I should have the rest finished by Halloween eve, so stay tuned!!! And keep your lights on. You never know what horrors lurk out there…