Afrovenator Jurassic Predator

Afrovenator lived in North Africa in the middle of Jurassic Period, 167 to 161 million years ago. Housed at the University of Chicago, the fossil specimen for Afrovenator is unusually complete: near the entire skull, vertebrae, pelvis, and partial limbs were discovered in 1993 in Niger in the lower Sahara Desert, in an area which was thought to actually contain more recent fossils. In fact, it is the most complete African dinosaur skeleton discovered to date.

Afrovenator SkeletonBased on this skeleton, Afrovenator measured 22 to 26 feet long from snout to tip of tail (theories vary) and weighed anywhere from 1,000 pounds to 1 ton. Compared to other therapods, the skull of Afrovenator was rather flat and long, though this can’t be known for sure until a complete skull in found. Also, the humerus of Afrovenator was longer than the average therapod humerus, meaning that their arms had a longer reach.

 

Since its discovery, scientists have been trying to find a place for Afrovenator in the Megalosauridae family of dinosaurs. In the past, Afrovenator was placed in close relation to Spinosaurus, then to Megalosaurus and Torvosaurus, as well as Allosaurus. The most recent information, however, makes Afrovenator the closest relative to Dubreuillosaurus, a similarly-sized therapod found in France. Dubreuillosaurus also had a long, flat skull like that of Afrovenator. Given their close relation, one might speculate about the missing parts of the Afrovenator skeleton, but the Dubreuillosaurus found was a juvenile and so any special features (such as horns or crests) may not have had time to develop yet.

 

Afrovenator DrawingAfrovenator was undoubtedly a predator, but exactly which species this dinosaur hunted and ate are as yet unknown. The same excavation that unearthed Afrovenator also turned up Jobaria, a large sauropod, for the first time. These discoveries were published together. It is possible that Jobaria was a species commonly eaten by Afrovenator. Given the relative size of the herbivores in North Africa and Afrovenator, Afrovenator probably would not have been able to hunt healthy adult dinosaurs. They were built for speed but somewhat small and slight, unsuitable for combat with animals the size of Jobaria (measuring 60 feet from snout to end of tail and weighing in at over 20 tons).

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