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Majungatholus: Apparent Cannibal
Analysis of bones scored by tooth marks suggests Majungatholus was a
cannibal that regularly dined on members of its own species and other
dinosaurs. The rare, tooth-marked bones are the best evidence to date for
a behavior probably common among dinosaurs but difficult to prove.
"I don't think this should be unexpected, but because of the nature of the
fossil record we get such a limited window on this type of phenomenon. We
have such a small sample of what really went down," said Raymond Rogers, a
geologist at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Rogers; together with his wife Kristina Curry Rogers, a curator of
paleontology at the Science Museum of Minnesota; and David Krause, a
professor of anatomy at Stony Brook University in New York; report their
finding in the April 3 issue of Nature.
The trio analyzed hundreds of bones collected in Madagascar since 1993.
Unlike most dinosaur fossils, many of these bones exhibit tooth marks. All
of the tooth marks and many of the bones were identified as belonging to
The latest find suggests cannibalism owing to bones found with
distinctive sets of tooth marks that match both the size and spacing of
teeth in Majungatholus' jaws and similar grooves that match the sharp
serrations on Majungatholus' blade-like teeth.
The researchers were careful to compare the tooth-scored Madagascar bones
to the teeth of other animals living on the island 65 to 70 million years
ago. One two-footed, meat-eating dinosaur named Masiakasaurs was ruled out
because of its small size: It only grew to one-fifth the size of 30-foot
Other possible candidates include two large crocodiles (Mahajangasuchus
insignis and Trematochampsa oblita). But both animals had teeth too
variable in size, spacing, and location to have made the evenly-spaced
tooth marks observed on the fossils, said Krause. Nor did the ancient
crocodiles have tooth serrations of correct size and spacing to have made
drag marks observed on some of the best-preserved bones.