STL Science Center

STL Science Center

18 August 2012

Some Awesome Skorpiovenators for Saturday.

©Mark Turner
There is a fairly well known skeleton of Skorpiovenator that has been found. So far, unless a second skeleton has been very recently discovered, it is still only one skeleton that we as a species have to study for Skorpiovenator. There is nothing wrong with this of course, except that it is sad that there is so little material available to study still. Thankfully, however, that very little material is a nearly complete skeleton in addition to being the only skeleton available. As rare as Skorpiovenator is, though, a complete skeleton, even though Skorpiovenator is missing some of its arms and tail, is one of the rarest thing in paleontology. Given that we have such a large amount of the skeleton and it has been thoroughly described, we know that Skorpiovenator was an abelisaurid, and that gives us a general appearance that we are sure of for those missing parts.

The general body shape that Skorpiovenator, and other abelisaurids, follow is a very typical theropod body shape. However, Skorpiovenator does have unique properties, as does every dinosaur, that separates it from its closest cousins. Skorpiovenator, for one, was larger than some of the other carnivores it shared its woodlands with such as Ilokelesia, a medium sized abelisaur, and it was smaller than some of its neighbors as well such as Mapusaurus, a carcharodontosaur. This medium size, though being on the largest end of abelisaurids, would have meant that to pull down the sauropods mentioned yesterday Skorpiovenator either hunted in small groups, picked off the juveniles more than the adults, or had some sort of amazing adaptation, like those thought to exist in Acrocanthosaurus (covered in the December 2010 Facebook page) which allowed it to hunt adult sauropods. The face of Skorpiovenator, however, was actually a lot shorter than that portrayed in this illustration. Long legs, not long jaws, were probably one of its most important weapons in conjunction with a toughened skull which appeared built for impact and high stresses.

©Mark Turner (link above)
Possessing long leg that more than likely powered a somewhat agile, for an almost two tonne animal, and quick predator with a reinforced skull which may have been used in part to wrestle prey to the ground, Skorpiovenator had little use for large arms. Given that much of the forelimb is missing in the skeleton that has been found it is difficult to position the forelimbs completely, but given the knowledge of abelisaurids that we have, and using other existing forelimbs from other abelisaurids as a model, the small stunted looking downward or backward facing hand of Carnotaurus or Abelisaurus itself is probably a very good fit for Skorpiovenator. Alternatively, the skinny abelisaurid arm of Indosuchus is an understandable model as well. Given, though, the geographic location of Skorpiovenator it is most likely that the stunted folded in Carnotaurus style arm would have been present in Skorpiovenator or at the very least beginning to show as an intermediary design between early abelisaurids and Carnotaurus and Abelisaurus, which came later. The exact use of the jaws as killing instruments has probably been surmised in the describing paper of 2009, and if I get my hands on it I will share the conclusion to that end, though I feel it will be much like the killing apparatus found in Carnotaurus as their skulls seem to have been the equivalent of version 1.0 of what would later evolve to be the skull of Carnotaurus.

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