STL Science Center

STL Science Center

15 February 2012

Finders of the Spikey Teeth

The paleontologists responsible for finding, naming, and describing Masiakasaurus are well known in the scientific community, though I suppose not to everyone outside the scientific community. The first skeleton was 40% complete, found near a village called Berivotra, and though missing a greater amount of bones than were found was made up of bones from all over the small ceratosaur body including a portion of the lower jaw's dentary bone which held the forward jutting teeth. Scott Sampson, who seems to be one of the most friendly guys on the planet, was included in that team which found the remains in the Maevarano formation of rock. He, Matthew Carrano of the Smithsonian, and Catherine Forster now of George Washington University, noticed that this dinosaur fit into the category known as noasaurs (small abelisaurid theropods closer in relation to Noasaurus than Carnotaurus) under the ceratosaur family but revealed very little about ceratosaur evolution or that of noasaurs to be honest.

Since the original discovery new materials have brought the bone representation in the skeleton up to around 65% and have included the braincase, tibia, vertebrae, scapular elements, phalanx, unguals, and other fragments. The bones show pneumatic functioning as well, like other theropods. Among the theories of diet that include fish eating, based on the front set of heterodont teeth, the rear teeth being more like its larger cousins on the island Majungasaurus and other theropod teeth, as well as diets based on fruit, small invertebrates and vertebrates, and scavenging. The bones also indicate what may be a case for sexual dimorphism in the animals, though without complete skeletons this is difficult to prove at this time.

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