New in Prehistory



Scientists in Houston have found the remains of a prehistoric duel which saw an Allosaur dinosaur conquered by a Stegosaur over 147 million years ago.

The fossilised remains of an allosaur, a dinosaur famed for its predatory capabilities, was found to have a small injury between its legs, thought to be the cause of its demise. Until now, the origin of this injury was unknown but scientists have matched it with a sharp weapon on the tail of a stegosaur, an equally ferocious dinosaur it seems. Due to the placement of the wound, it was thought that the extended damage could easily lead to infection, with a fossilised abscess present.

Palaeontologist, Robert Bakker of the Houston Museum of Natural Science commented that the infection would have spread, and eaten away bone the size of a baseball, before infecting legs and reproductive organs. This means that the stegosaurus conquered the allosaurus. In fact, caused it to limp for some time while becoming more infected over a long time period.

Well, he should’ve never looked at Mrs Stegosaurus that way.

Image by Joshua Spackman

However, if we put aside the sheer childish pleasure of an awkward pose frozen in time for millions of years, it holds real scientific value.

A previously slow, herbivorous stegosaur attacking and triumphing over a carnivorous allosaur gives new clues into dinosaur behaviour in a prehistoric world, where survival was a daily struggle. In fact, the stegosaurus spines in the tail show reduced stiffening which gives them three-dimensional dexterity, showing their capabilities in a whole new light. This has been compared to cow horns in modern life.

This evidence challenges our preconceptions on who ruled the prehistoric ages, plus it puts an immature grin on all our faces.


One of the biggest gaps in paleontology has been the link between land and sea creatures, but scientists at the University of California have found a significant part of the jigsaw: the discovery of a sea monster that was in fact built for land and sea.

Within deposits previously unexplored by humans, the new dolphin-like ichythosaur is the first sea creature of its kind found, to utilise both terrestrial and marine worlds, creating a more complete picture of how life transitioned from land back to sea.

The later ichthyosaurs were numerous and successful 200 million to 145 million years ago, and were giants, almost 11 times human size, at about 20m. This amphibious icthyosaur could be visualised with a behaviour much like sea lions, with unusually large flippers for the sea reptiles.

Cartorhynchus lenticarpus

Cartorhynchus lenticarpus was 0.5m in length and thought to have lived 248 million years ago in the early Triassic period. It had a short snout and strong wrists much like a sea lion, but powerful limbs and ribs which would have made it a successful swimmer in shallow waves. Dr Montani hypothesizes that the creature was adapted for foraging on the seafloor; its anatomy is thought to be similar to that of a slow, shrimp-eating creature. However, not all the questions have been answered with this discovery. There is still debate over what it ate, how quickly it could swim and how its descendants could develop long dolphin-esque tails and snouts for hunting faster prey.

This fossil helps to highlight that it took 4 million years for marine creatures to recover from the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, 252 million years ago, where 90% of marine species were lost. After this disaster they were seen to originate from Chinese deposits before beginning their global ocean take over. This poses the question: why was this part of the world optimal for their recovery?


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