Episode 99 is all about Afrovenator, a megalosaurid theropod that lived in the middle Jurassic in what is now Niger.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- The dinosaur of the day: Afrovenator
- Megalosaurid theropod that lived in the middle Jurassic in what is now Africa (Niger)
- Fossils found in 1993 in Niger, near a sauropod, Jobaria
- Described in 1994 in the journal Science by Paul Sereno, Jeffrey Wilson, Hans Larsson, Didier Dutheil, and Hans-Dieter Sues in the paper “Early Cretaceous dinosaurs from the Sahara”
- Originally thought to have lived in the Cretaceous, until sediments at the Tiouraren Formation where it was found were further analyzed and found to be from the mid-Jurassic instead
- Found one nearly complete skeleton (most of the skull, parts of the spinal column, partial forelimbs, partial pelvis, and some of the hindlimbs)
- Type species (only species) is Afrovenator abakensis
- The species name refers to Abaka, the Tuareg name for the area of Niger where Afrovenator was discovered
- About 26 ft (8 m) long, and weighed about one ton
- Bipedal, and had three claws on each hand
- Had long forelimbs and lower legs
- Pretty flat skull (length is almost 3x the height), though some of the skull is missing so it may not be that flat
- Has a few distinct traits, such as a low rectangular spine on the third neck vertebra and a flat crescent-shaped wrist bone
- Lightweight and probably pretty fast
- Maxilla had 14 tooth sockets (no teeth found)
- No direct evidence that Afrovenator hunted Jobaria, but may have happened (or Afrovenator may have gone after juvenile Jobaria)
- Skeleton is now at the University of Chicago
- Part of the group Megalosauridae
- Though Sereno originally described Afrovenator as a basal spinosauroid, and another study in 2003 found it more closely related to Allosaurus (though no one else has concluded that)
- Huxley named the family Megalosauridae in 1869
- It was a “wastebasket” group, meaning it included a large variety of unrelated species (Dryptosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Indosaurus, Velociraptor)
- Lived in the mid to late Jurassic about 170-148 Ma
- Lived in Europe, North America, South America, and Africa
- Cousins of spinosauridae
- Thomas R. Holtz offered an alternate group definition as all dinosaurs more closely related to Megalosaurus than to Spinosaurus, Allosaurus, or modern birds
- They are primative theropods; small to large sized, with sharp teeth and had three claws on each hand
- Big predators are usually harder to find than prey, so not much is known about megalosaurs
- But, Megalosaurus did look similar to T-rex, and may have been covered in proto-feathers
- Fun fact: We all know that birds are dinosaurs since we can show that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Likewise, alligators are reptiles because they evolved from other reptiles. But why aren’t dinosaurs considered fish since we know that dinosaurs evolved from fish?Basically it’s because dinosaurs are a “monophyletic” group meaning that the clade dinosauria includes dinosaurs and all of their descendants; whereas fish, and reptiles are “paraphyletic” groups which only include particular descendants. And since they don’t have nice clean definitions, it leads to a lot of room for interpretation for what should be included in Reptilia or other “paraphyletic” groups. In fact, depending on who you ask, birds either are or aren’t reptiles, and since reptiles are “paraphyletic” there isn’t really a “right” answer. This is the same reason that we don’t consider humans to be fish or reptiles.
This episode was brought to you by:
The Royal Tyrrell Museum. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is located in southern Alberta, Canada. One of the top paleontological research institutes in the world, the entire museum is dedicated to the science of paleontology. It’s definitely a must see for every dinosaur enthusiast. More information can be found at tyrrellmuseum.com.