A tough encounter with a rival dinosaur may explain why Big John is the most popular Triceratops A new study has found that the skeleton ever found has a keyhole-shaped hole in the frill.
This fight took place more than 66 million years ago, but scientists think they know the identity of the attacker: it was probably another Triceratopsaccording to a study published online Thursday (April 7th) in the journal Scientific reports (opens in a new tab).
“The location, shape and size of the lesion suggest that it was caused by someone else’s horn Triceratops of similar size, “said in a Live Science email leading researcher Ruger D’Anastasio, professor of biological anthropology at the University of G. d’Annunzio in Chieti Pescara in Italy.
Related: Who will buy “Big John”, the biggest triceratops ever found?
As the name suggests, Big John was a great dinosaur: He was about 26 feet (8 meters) long and his skull was about 6.6 feet (2 meters) wide. The skeleton, discovered at Hell Creek in South Dakota in 2014, is about 60% ready. These huge features helped Big John make headlines last year when his fossils were sold for about $ 7.2 million (6.6 million euros (opens in a new tab)) at an auction house in Paris.
Before the auction, Big John was taken to Italy, where research officer Flavio Bacchia of Zoic Fossil Recovery Company prepared a sample. Bacchia noticed a hole in the right side of Big John’s frill that prompted him to turn to scientists from Italian universities who could help analyze the lesion.
D’Anastasio said the “traumatic injury” was about 20 inches long and 2 inches (5 inches) wide, longer than a human arm. And this was most likely not done by a frontal attack.
“The blow probably took place from behind, as follows from the site of the defeat itself and the shape of the ‘exit hole’, which resembles the bullet holes described in forensic cases,” D’Anastasio said. The team tested this idea in the lab by simulating a shot with a throw Triceratops horn, “and the result confirms hypotheses based on the size and shape of the lesion,” he said.
Rana, however, did not kill Big John, at least not immediately. “Big John suffered an injury,” D’Anastasio said. “There are obvious signs of bone healing, though Triceratops died to complete healing. ”
Analysis of bone remodeling at the site of the lesion, compared with the rate of healing of traumatic injuries observed in modern reptiles, suggests that Big John was injured for at least six months before dying. “The animal may have died a few months after the infection after the injury, but this is just a hypothesis that needs to be demonstrated,” he said.
Big John is hardly the only horned dinosaur with a hole in its skull. Scientists have long believed that these holes were remnants of wounds inflicted by other horned dinosaurs, said Spencer Lucas, curator of paleontology at the Museum of Natural History and Science of New Mexico in Albuquerque, who was not involved in the study. But this study is the first study of that statement, he said.
“It’s a good study,” Lucas told Live Science. – I think it’s very convincing. However, this is not a slam dunk: the culprit could be another horned dinosaur, for example Tarasauruswho lived nearby Triceratopssaid Lucas.
“In fact, it’s impossible to know for sure unless you find a piece of horn sticking out of a wound or something like that, which is unlikely,” Lucas said.
Related: Meet Horridus, one of the most complete triceratops fossils ever found
The finding also fits the idea that Triceratops lived in social groups, “something like a herd,” Lucas added. In modern animals that oppose their species, “many times these types of battles or battles are mostly aimed at establishing dominance or establishing territory,” Lucas said. So maybe Triceratops persons living at the end of the Cretaceous period (145 to 66 million years ago) did the same.
“That’s the real significance of the study,” Lucas said. “It gives us an idea of the behavior of at least that particular person.”
However, Lucas still had to choose with Greater John, or at least with his owner: according to D’Anastasio, researchers from the University of D’Annunzio have only a small sample of the defeat of Greater John. Zoik and the auction gallery told D’Anastasio that the buyer, whose identity is not publicly known, would soon make the skeleton of Big John available for scientific study. But it’s not the same as a museum or government agency owning a copy, Lucas said. Individuals with private specimens can make these fossils available (or inaccessible) to researchers at any time, which means that scientists may not always have access to them.
“All published fossils should be available for scientific study,” Lucas said. “One cannot satisfy the question of whether this will be the case with this fossil (apparently in private hands) in 10, 20 or 50 years.”
Originally published on Live Science.