Allosaurus

AllosaurusAllosaurus — Allosaurus is a genus of large theropod dinosaur that lived 155 to 145 million years ago, in the late Jurassic period. The first remains that can definitely be ascribed to this genus were described in 1877 by Othniel Charles Marsh. As one of the first well-known theropod dinosaurs, it has long attracted attention outside of paleontological circles, and has been a lead dinosaur in several films and documentaries.

Allosaurus was a multi-ton bipedal predator with a large skull, equipped with dozens of large, sharp teeth. It averaged 8.5 meters (30 ft) in length, though fragmentary remains suggest it could have reached over 12 meters (39 ft). Relative to the large and powerful hindlimbs, its three-fingered forelimbs were small, and the body was balanced by a long, heavy tail. It is classified as an allosaurid, a type of carnosaurian theropod dinosaur. The genus has a complicated taxonomy, and includes an uncertain number of valid species, the best known of which is A. fragilis. The bulk of Allosaurus remains have come from North America’s Morrison Formation, with material also from Portugal and possibly Tanzania. It was known for over half of the 20th century as Antrodemus, but study of the copious remains from the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry brought the name Allosaurus back to prominence, and established it as one of the best-known dinosaurs.

As the prominent large predator in the Morrison Formation, Allosaurus was at the top of the food chain, probably preying on contemporaneous large herbivorous dinosaurs. Potential prey included ornithopods, stegosaurids, and sauropods. While it is often thought of as preying on sauropod dinosaurs in groups, there is little evidence for cooperative social behavior in this genus, and individuals may have been aggressive toward each other instead. It may have attacked large prey by ambush, using its upper jaws like a hatchet.

Several gigantic specimens have been attributed to Allosaurus, but may in fact belong to other genera. The closely related genus Saurophaganax (OMNH 1708) reached perhaps 10.9 meters (36 ft) in length, and its single species has sometimes been included in the genus Allosaurus as Allosaurus maximus, though recent studies support it as a separate genus.Another potential specimen of Allosaurus, once assigned to the genus Epanterias (AMNH 5767), may have measured 12.1 meters in length (40 ft).

Allosaurus had nine vertebrae in the neck, fourteen in the back, and five in the sacrum supporting the hips.The number of tail vertebrae is unknown and varied with individual size; James Madsen estimated approximately 50,while Gregory S. Paul considered that to be too many and suggested 45 or less.There were hollow spaces in the neck and anterior back vertebrae. Such spaces, which are also found in modern theropods (that is, the birds), are interpreted as having held air sacs used in respiration.The rib cage was broad, giving it a barrel chest, especially in comparison to less derived theropods like Ceratosaurus. Allosaurus had gastralia (belly ribs), but these are not common findings, and they may have ossified poorly.

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