Abelisauridae is a clade of theropods that was identified in the mid
1980s based on Abelisaurus and Carnotaurus, two
new LK species from Argentina. So far, they are known mostly from the late
Cretaceous of the Southern Hemisphere. Many of them appear to have been of
moderate size; think more like the museum Allosaurus than Tyrannosaurus. They were
the Gondwanan equivalent of the tyrannosaurids,
being the top predators (after the spinosaurids and
carcharodontosaurids were out of the way in the
early Late Cretaceous). However, they probably went about their business
in different ways than tyrannosaurids, given their less cursorial builds (abelisaurids
seem to have been longer and lower than tyrannosaurids, from what we currently
know), less robust skulls and teeth, and different prey items (Gondwanan
continents being overrun with titanosaurians and
with not much in the way of hadrosaurids, ankylosaurians,
Most analyses of Abelisauridae end up putting Abelisaurus off in a corner, separate from a group of carnotaurines, which is a bit unfair because Abelisaurus is only known from a partial skull. Depending on the definitions used, many animals usually thought of as abelisaurids can fall out of it; for example, if your Abelisauridae is based on the most recent common ancestor of Abelisaurus + Carnotaurus, a lot of basal forms end up in the cold. If your definition is all theropods closer to Abelisaurus than to Noasaurus, then you have nothing to worry about. In the diagram below, Carnotaurinae either does not exist or is the "+" where Majungasaurinae and Brachyrostra meet, depending on whether you feel it is more important to exclude Abelisaurus or include Majungasaurus. Always check your definitions!
Abelisaurid skulls are known for having deep upper jaws with tall snouts, and slim lower jaws. They also have "cheeks" expanded side to side, like those of tyrannosaurids, perhaps conferring an additional degree of binocular vision over predators with more narrow skulls. "Carnotaurines" are traditionally known for very short arms practically lacking the forearm segment, and for elaborate horns and knobs on the skull.
Besides its two founding members, Abelisaurus and Carnotaurus, Abelisauridae has become a home for a number of poorly-known theropods whose affinities had previously been unknown. With the recent flood of good material from South America and Madagascar, it is very likely that this group will continue to increase in size.
Abelisauridae: This is a sort of theropod "rogue's gallery," where the members are outlandish in appearance. Horns above the eyes (Carnotaurus means "meat-eating bull"), extraordinarily deep skulls matched with slender dentaries, tiny, seemingly useless arms and hands, and strange thickening of the skull roof are things seen in some or all of these creatures. It is most probable that the cranial ornamentation was used for display. "Carnotaurines" also have L-shaped "wings" (sticking out and up on the long end of the L, with the short end pointing forward) for transverse processes on the caudal verts.
There are a number of poorly-known abelisaurids described from India (Huene and Matley described several abelisaurids and noasaurids in a great big monograph back in 1933, but of course the dinosaurs weren't identified as such yet) that have suffered greatly, first from initial misinterpretations (and the fact that they weren't complete enough to draw good comparisons), and later from specimen loss; a great deal of the convoluted taxonomy could probably be cleaned up if the original specimens could be located. For example, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that Indosaurus, Indosuchus, and Compsosuchus are the same thing, and Lametasaurus and Rajasaurus the same thing. It appears that there were at least two large theropods, possibly three, in the Lameta, one represented by Indosuchus, one represented by Carnotaurus-like Rajasaurus, and a possible non-abelisaurid abelisauroid (suggested by some skull elements with non-abelisaurid features).
An abelisaurid tooth, previously referred to Majungasaurus, is known from the Maastrichtian (LK) of Egypt. Abelisaurid teeth are also reported from the LJ of Portugal, and the Campanian-Maastrichtian of Saudi Arabia.
"Carnotaurines", particularly the distinctive namesake, have become the go-to theropods when someone wants to depict a theropod that is not either Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor (or another "raptor"), or Allosaurus.
|Taxon or Taxa:||Time/Place:||Comments:|
|Eoabelisaurus mefi Pol and Rauhut, 2012||Aalenian-Bajocian (MJ) of Argentina||Eoablisaurus yanks the abelisaurid record back to the depths of the Middle Jurassic (no mean feat, with those arms). It is known from a largely complete skeleton; the main missing parts are most of the anterior half of the skull, the lower jaws, about half of the neck, and the end of the tail. If you're wondering how a Middle Jurassic abelisaurid compares to the later models, the answer is that it actually looks pretty familiar. The bones of the pelvis are fused, the arms are short (but there is still a noticeable forearm), the neural spines are on the tall side, and the processes of the tail vertebrae don't yet have that odd exaggerated winged shape that can be seen in more derived abelisaurids.|
|?Genusaurus sisteronis Accarie, Beaudoin, Dejax, Fries, Michard, and Taquet, 1995||Albian (EK) of France||Genusaurus is an obscure abelisauroid theropod known from a partial pelvis, some dorsal and sacral vertebrae, and partial long bones of the leg. It is mostly of note for being one of the few abelisauroids described from Europe (or anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere for that matter).|
|Kryptops palaios Sereno and Brusatte, 2008||Aptian-Albian (EK) of Niger||Kryptops is another rough-faced abelisaurid, with an upper jaw laced with vessel tracks and pits indicating some kind of covering that was firmly attached. It is one of the earliest described abelisaurids, and is known from a maxilla. A partial skeleton originally referred to it, including verts, ribs, a sacrum, and a partial pelvis, probably belongs to a carnosaurian, possibly the contemporary Eocarcharia.|
|Rugops primus Sereno, Wilson, and Conrad, 2004||Cenomanian (LK) of Niger||Rugops is a hornless (no bony horns, at least) basal abelisaurid, known from a partial skull lacking the palate and most of the bones along the side of the face behind the eyes. This skull is distinguished by a row of depressions along the upper surfaces of the nasals, and by a small hole between the lacrimal, prefrontal, frontal, and postorbital (which is a little sketchy on absolute dimensions given that the postorbitals are AWOL). It has been suggested that these holes held blood vessels to supply a nonbony keratinous or fleshy ridge or crest system. I like the name; it is short and direct, like a good predator ought to be.|
|?Tarascosaurus salluvicus (?N.D.) Le Loeuff and Buffetaut, 1990||early Campanian (LK) of France||Tarascosaurus, a rare non-Gondwanan abelisaurid, may be related to Abelisaurus. It is based on a femur and two dorsals, which may not belong to the same taxon.|
|Xenotarsosaurus bonapartei Martinez, Gimenez, Rodriguez, and Bochatey, 1987||late Cenomanian- early Turonian (LK) of Argentina||This animal is based upon most of a hindlimb and some verts. Although often tossed off as an abelisaurid, its scanty type material lacks important elements for diagnosis.|
|Taxon or Taxa:||Time/Place:||Comments:|
|Dryptosauroides grandis (N.D.) Huene and Matley, 1933||Maastrichtian (LK) of India||This theropod is based upon six incomplete caudals that have no features that would allow it to be distinguished from the multitude of other dubious theropods from the Lameta Formation, or from Majungasaurus. It would have been large, though, on the order of Carnotaurus in size.|
|Indosuchus raptorius Huene, 1932 (?Compsosuchus, ?Indosaurus)||Maastrichtian (LK) of India||This theropod is based on currently absent skull
material. It was a contemporary of
Rajasaurus and (possibly synonymous) Indosaurus,
but appears to be closest to Abelisaurus and Majungasaurus. It was originally identified as a tyrannosaurid.
A partial skeleton once assigned to it is now the type specimen of Rahiolisaurus.
|Lametasaurus indicus (N.D.) Matley, 1921||Maastrichtian (LK) of India||This taxon was once considered to be an armored dinosaur, but now its remains are believed to belong to a theropod, a crocodilian, and an armored dinosaur, either a titanosaurian or ankylosaurian. In particular, the type is given as scutes (by some sources; other suggest differently), which are a mix of crocodilian and possible titanosaur and/or ankylosaurian armor; referred material includes ilia, a tibia, and a sacrum, which may belong to Rajasaurus.|
|Ornithomimoides mobilis (N.D.) Huene and Matley, 1933||Maastrichtian (LK) of India||The specimens assigned to this species are inadequate for classification beyond Abelisauridae, and are essentially identical to those of Majungasaurus. It was based on five caudals (or six caudals).|
|?Vitakridrinda sulaimani Malkani, 2006||Maastrichtian (LK) of Pakistan||Vitakridrinda was named for a partial skull and femoral remains, with some referred vertebrae. At this time, it is included as an abelisaurid because of size, location, and geologic age. However, at least some of the type material appears to belong to the contemporary croc Pabwehshi, with the situation complicated because of the uncertain association of the type material, some of which may be dinosaurian (see here at the Theropod Database Blog for the gory details)|
Majungasaurinae: The majungasaurines include the bulk of the abelisaurids from Madagascar and India.
|Taxon or Taxa:||Time/Place:||Comments:|
|Arcovenator escotae Tortosa, Buffetaut, Vialle, Dutour, Turini, and Cheylan, 2013||late Campanian (LK) of France||Arcovenator is known from the posterior part of a skull, some leg bones, and caudals. Like all good abelisaurids, the skull has thickened and rough areas, and there is modest doming. It is of note for clearly being an abelisaurid (unlike other less-informative European material), and of having affinities to forms from Madagascar and India (the caudals are very similar to those of Majungasaurus, for example).|
|Indosaurus matleyi Huene and Matley, 1933 (?Indosuchus)||Maastrichtian (LK) of India||I am sad to report that Indosaurus does not appear to have had horns after all, and could potentially be the same as Indosuchus (unfortunately the type material is lost). It was once identified as an allosaurid or "megalosaurid".|
|Majungasaurus crenatissimus Lavocat, 1955 (originally Megalosaurus crenatissimus Depéret, 1896; including Majungatholus atopus Sues and Taquet, 1979)||mid Maastrichtian (LK) of Madagascar||This theropod has been through a mess.
For a long time, there was Megalosaurus crenatissimus, or Dryptosaurus
crenatissimus, or Majungasaurus crenatissimus, a large theropod. Then, there was Majungatholus, thought to be a large,
strange pachycephalosaurid. Then,
skull set the record straight partially by showing that Majungatholus
was really a theropod. Because the crenatissimus material
wasn't the greatest, it was left out of the party until there were enough
remains to show that indeed it was the same as Majungatholus and by
priority should be the name used.
In one of those things that happen, "Megalosaurus" crenatissimus and Majungasaurus actually are based on different material. Depéret based his species on a collection of teeth, verts, and a phalanx, with no actual holotype, whereas Lavocat designated a Carnotaurus-like dentary from an immature individual as the neotype for Majungasaurus, while explicitly recognizing "M." crenatissimus and Majungasaurus to be the same thing.
Among the many interesting skull features are the thickened nasals, a horn on the frontal, a parietal prominence, and pneumatic chambers. Remains from several individuals and size classes are known. Tooth markings on some remains suggest cannibalism.
|Rahiolisaurus gujaratensis Novas, Chatterjee, Dutta, and Rudra, 2010||Maastrichtian (LK) of India||Rahiolisaurus is based on the (relatively) long-armed abelisaurid skeleton formerly assigned to Indosuchus (except, of course, that the relatively long arm belonged to a juvenile titanosaur in part, with the other part being a broken metatarsal). The skeleton is described as gracile and belonging to an animal on the order of 8 m long.|
|Rajasaurus narmadensis Wilson, Sereno, Srivastava, Bhatt, Khosla, and Sahni, 2003||Maastrichtian (LK) of India||Based on material including a skull with a low horn, hip material, caudals, and hindlimb material, this large abelisaurid puts interesting questions to those who delight in taxonomy, given the tangled state of theropod taxonomy of the Lameta Formation of India. It may put to rest some of the controversy surrounding Lametasaurus, as its ilia are very similar to the ilia included in the material of the latter.|
Brachyrostra: Brachyrostrans appear to be limited to South America at this time.
|Taxon or Taxa:||Time/Place:||Comments:|
|Ilokelesia aguadagrandensis Coria and Salgado, 2000||Turonian-Santonian (LK) of Argentina||This is a new, incomplete abelisaurid with a very interesting name, known from skull fragments, some vertebrae, and hindlimb material first found before at least 1991. It was initially proposed as a basal sister group to Abelisauridae+Noasauridae. The caudal verts' transverse processes are T-shaped.|
|Ekrixinatosaurus novasi Calvo, Rubilar-Rogers, and Moreno, 2004||late Cenomanian (LK) of Argentina||Ekrixinatosaurus (name means
"explosion-born lizard," referring to being discovered during a
blasting operation) is based on a fair amount of a skeleton belonging to a
single individual, about 6 m long from its skeletal restoration. Both maxillae and dentaries, part of the braincase, a couple of cervicals,
many dorsals, the sacrum, anterior-middle caudals, most of the pelvis
(except for the distal ischia), ribs, most of one hindlimb, and the knee
of the other hindlimb were preserved. It has standard
"carnotaur" caudal process wings and pelvic form.
It has a relatively bigger head than Carnotaurus (extrapolated skull-femur ratio 1.00 compared to 0.58), but is not particularly unique compared to other abelisaurids (some different proportions and holes and depressions on the verts, and so on).
|Skorpiovenator bustingorryi Canale, Scanferla, Agnolin, and Novas, 2008||late Cenomanian-early Turonian (LK) of Argentina||Skorpiovenator is named for the numerous scorpions inhabiting the dig site. It is based on a mostly complete skeleton lacking the shoulders and most of the arms (typical), the ends of the ischia and pubes, and about half of the tail. Unlike several other abelisaurids, the skull has no prominent bony ornamentation, but is rather deep and vaguely dog-like in profile (actually, now that I think about it, it's probably not all that far off from a complete Abelisaurus skull). The type individual was about 6 m long.|
|Abelisaurus comahuensis Bonaparte and Novas, 1985||early Campanian (LK) of Argentina||Known only from a partial skull, Abelisaurus is usually regarded as closely related to Carnotaurus, although that may seem hard to believe based on the superficial aspects of the skulls (and some researchers have suggested that it may be a late-surviving carcharodontosaurid, although that is no longer very popular). It is one of my favorite big theropods; I like the no-nonsense look of the skull.|
|Aucasaurus garridoi Coria, Chiappe, and Dingus, 2002||early Campanian (LK) of Argentina||This abelisaurid is based
on an almost complete skeleton back to the 13th caudal, including soft tissue impressions about
the hips. The animal is considered to have been about 70% of Carnotaurus'
size, with a longer, lower skull with bumps instead of horns, but very
similar to the other animal. The
arms were also somewhat longer.
It had been buried in a shallow lake; damage to the skull suggests it had been involved in a fight shortly before death.
|Carnotaurus sastrei Bonaparte, 1985||Maastrichtian (LK) of Argentina||This theropod is known from some of the best material of any dinosaur. Its type is a virtually complete skeleton and skull with extensive skin impressions, showing this animal to have had widely-spaced rows of small scutes, in addition to the bony horns which give this theropod its name. Its hands and arms were so small as to be virtually useless; for example, the lower arm bones (ulna and radius) were functionally part of the hand. Once dated to the "middle" Cretaceous, it is now known to be much younger.|
|Pycnomenosaurus nevesi Kellner and Campos, 2002||?Santonian (LK) of Brazil||This abelisaurid from Brazil is apparently the first such named member of the clade from that country. It is based on rather scrappy remains, including a tibia, parts of a fibula and pubis, and a handful of verts, uncovered in the early 1950s.|
|Quilmesaurus curriei Coria, 2001||late Campanian (LK) of Argentina||Based on a small to medium sized femur and tibia, Quilmesaurus initially defied classification, but it now appears as though this animal probably was an abelisaurid (?"carnotaurine").|
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