Scientists analyzed the well-preserved skin of one of the “strangest carnivorous dinosaurs ever discovered” in unprecedented detail, and found that its complex skin consisted of various patterns of scales and bumps.
The remarkable fossil was discovered in 1984 by celebrated Argentine palaeontologist José Bonaparte who named the animal Carnotaurus, which translates as “carnivorous bull” in reference to its strange skull with large horns.
According to scientists, the scaly skin of this carnivorous dinosaur (Carnotaurus sastrei) is the most well-preserved of any theropod, a group of hollow-legged dinosaurs from which modern birds also evolved.
The study was conducted by researchers from Unidad Ejecutora Lillo in Argentina and the University of New England in Australia, and was published in the journal Cretaceous Research.
Scientists described in detail, for the first time, the preserved skin features of the shoulder, chest, tail, and possibly neck regions of the fossil skeleton.
Palaeontologist Dr. Christophe Hendrickx from the Unidad Ejecutora Lillo in San Miguel de Tucumán, who led the present study said, “by looking at the skin from the shoulders, belly and tail regions, we discovered that the skin of this dinosaur was more diverse than previously thought, consisting of large and randomly distributed conical studs surrounded by a network of small elongated, diamond-shaped or subcircular scales.”
The scientists explained that the large bumps and small scales of Carnotosaurus were similar to those seen in the thorny devil lizard found in the Australian outback.
The scientists wrote: “Contrary to previous interpretations, the characteristic scales are distributed randomly and do not form separate rows and do not show gradual differences in size along parts of the body. They also show little difference in shape along the body, although the bumps are located in places different in different parts of the body.
These findings, according to the scientists, help give the shape of the Carnotosaurus, which translates as “carnivorous bull” in reference to its strange large-horned skull.
Given the horned dinosaur’s supposedly active lifestyle and need to shed excess heat, scientists speculate that complex skin may have played a vital role in regulating body temperature, a role that skin also plays in modern mammals and reptiles.