BBC Earth

Carnotaurus

'Meat-eating bull'

WWD

Carnotaurus was a bipedal carnivore with miniscule forearms, a boxy head and bull-like horns. A pretty ugly dinosaur, if ever we saw one.

They call it home

Carnotaurus lived in a lake or lagoon-dominated environment. The climate was warm but with distinct wet and dry seasons.

What big teeth you have

What big teeth you have

Carnotaurus' teeth were 7.5 times smaller than those of Tyrannosaurus rex.



Nose knowledge

Nose knowledge

Carnotaurus would have had a fairly standard sense of smell for a theropod dinosaur.


The most fantastic find

The most fantastic find

Only one Carnotaurus fossil has been found so far, which was by palaeontologist Jose Bonaparte in Argentina in 1985. Amazingly, most of the skeleton, its skull and skin impressions were unearthed. A discovery this detailed is extremely rare in palaeontology.

Carnotaurus features

Carnotaurus features Height: 4m (13.12ft)
Length: 9m (29.52ft)
Weight: 2 tonnes (2.24 short tons)
Top speed: 40kph (24.85mph)
Vision: Carnotaurus had rather small eyes. We think its vision may not have been as important as its sense of smell.
Skin: From a fossilised skin sample, scientists have found that Carnotaurus had small pebbly scales over its body with large, conical scutes (bony plates) forming rows along its side.
Head: Carnotaurus had bull-like horns on its head. Males might have used these to fight other males over territory and females.
Prey: Carnotaurus would have been an active predator of small, agile prey.
Bite: Carnotaurus had a less powerful bite than T. rex, but its vaulted skull made it snappy like a turtle. Carnotaurus could have gripped victims securely in its backward-curving teeth.
Nest: Carnotaurus eggs are assumed to fit the usual theropod pattern: bird-like in shape, measuring between 10 and 15 cm (4-6in) long and with a shell a couple of millimetres (0.07in) thick.

Carnotaurus facts and theories

Carnotaurus facts and theories

  1. Some paleontologists think that Carnotaurus could have used its horns to head butt!
  2. At first glance Carnotaurus looks similar to T. rex, but they are very distantly related theropods.
  3. Carnotaurus' spindly forearms were just 0.5m (1.6ft) long, which would have been tiny compared to the rest of its body, far shorter than Tyrannosaurus forearms. Each arm could not even touch the other, so clapping would have been out of the question.
  4. The puny forearms of Carnotaurus are even smaller than those of T. rex. In absolute size, they are smaller than human arms.
  5. The hips and tail of Carnotaurus would have made it well adapted for the Olympic sprint. Its caudofemoralis, or thigh muscle, weighed 15% of its entire body mass. Carnotaurus could run faster than Tyrannosaurus and perhaps all other theropods.
  6. Carnotaurus would have had a reasonable IQ for a dinosaur – possibly well within the upper margins. The theropods were the most intelligent group of dinosaurs.