In an interesting case of an archaeologist making an archaeological find in a museum, a previously unidentified dinosaur bone was rediscovered buried in a drawer at the Museum of Geology and Palaeontology in Palermo Italy by a PhD student from the Imperial College London. The student, Alessandro Chiarenza, requested permission to analyze the femur bone and ended up solving two mysteries at once.
The first mystery he solved was exactly which dinosaur the bone came from and how huge these ancient creatures could grow to be. According to a fascinating press release on the EurekAlert website, the fossil has been classified as belonging to the abelisaur:
Alessandro Chiarenza, a PhD student from Imperial College London, last year stumbled across a fossilised femur bone, left forgotten in a drawer, during his visit to the Museum of Geology and Palaeontology in Palermo Italy. He and a colleague Andrea Cau, a researcher from the University of Bologna, got permission from the museum to analyse the femur. They discovered that the bone was from a dinosaur called abelisaur, which roamed the Earth around 95 million years ago during the late Cretaceous period.
Abelisauridae were a group of predatory, carnivorous dinosaurs, characterised by extremely small forelimbs, a short deep face, small razor sharp teeth, and powerful muscular hind limbs. Scientists suspect they were also covered in fluffy feathers. The abelisaur in today’s study would have lived in North Africa, which at that time was a lush savannah criss-crossed by rivers and mangrove swamps. This ancient tropical world would have provided the abelisaur with an ideal habitat for hunting aquatic animals like turtles, crocodiles, large fish and other dinosaurs.
By studying the bone, the team deduced that this abelisaur may have been nine metres long and weighed between one and two tonnes, making it potentially one of the largest abelisaurs ever found. This is helping researchers to determine the maximum sizes that these dinosaurs may have reached during their peak.
Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza, co-author of the study from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial, said: “Smaller abelisaur fossils have been previously found by palaeontologists, but this find shows how truly huge these flesh eating predators had become. Their appearance may have looked a bit odd as they were probably covered in feathers with tiny, useless forelimbs, but make no mistake they were fearsome killers in their time.”
Continue to the next page to learn about the second mystery that Chiarenza and Cau solved with this amazing find…