STL Science Center

STL Science Center

01 February 2012

Finding and Refinding

Majungasaurus has had an interesting past. Like many dinosaurs Majungasaurus has sported many names over its history as a known species of dinosaur. First, when the French found its skeletons in 1896 with Deperet leading their dig it was described and named Megalosaurus crenatissimus like so many other dinosaurs in the 19th century. In fact, there have been so many dinosaurs initially named Megalosaurus that there could be a museum just dedicated to the history of the erroneous naming of dinosaurs into this genus. 1955 saw the first use of the name Majungasaurus by Rene Lavocat, another French scientist, but that was not the end of the names. In the 1970's the name was revamped a little with what was thought to be an entirely new genus and species thought to be a pachycephalosaur being found which turned out to be partial remains of a Majungasaurus. The name given to this remains was Majungatholus atops. Finally, for a few brief years recently, the past two decades primarily, Majungasaurus was known to the public as Majungatholus atops the abelisaurid rather than M. atops the pachycephalosaur thanks to a 1996 discovery of a very well preserved skull and subsequent redesignation in a 1998 paper. Science, obviously, has named Majungatholus a synonym junior in age to Majungasaurus and kept the latter while relegating the former to a footnote.

That skull of Majungasaurus has an interesting bony look, as mentioned before, but something even more interesting about the animal is that its legs, built extra stocky for even an abelisaurid, even stockier than Carnotaurus' weight lifter's legs, had a very prominent crest on its knee. It also had depressed cervical ribs to decrease its weight something like the fuller on a sword. Majungasaurus also had strange hands, as we have mentioned, but what was not mentioned was that if you look closely only two fingers should be shown, like a tyrannosaur, but with no claws and it is important to note that the hand bones were fused together, making them essentially useless for anything except the doggy paddle!

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