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Jacob Starling

on 6 April 2014

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Transcript of Acrocanthosaurus

Acro dominated America for millions of years! It did what it liked and killed more than it could eat but suddenly, in the blink of an eye, it vanished! What could have driven this killer to extinction? Deinonychus is way too small to have any large impact on an Acrocanthosaurus population, no, something bigger wiped them out. Near the end of Acro's reign of terror the climate changed. The big sauropods that Acro specialized in vanished mysteriously and were replaced by smaller armoured prey, like Sauropelta, shown opposite. These powerful defenders were covered in long spikes and almost bite-proof armour. Acro's thin blade teeth were no use against their bony plates. Acro slowly disappeared, doomed by their specialisation, never again to terrorize the earth!
By Jacob Starling
Acrocanthosaurus is a super charged hyper-carnivore, the unrivaled king of its time. At 11.5m long from nose to tail it was only 1m shorter than Tyrannosaurus. its skull alone was an enormous 1.30 metres of raw killing power, with jaws full of saw blade like teeth, viciously serrated and backwards curving, designed to slice through flesh and inflict brutal wounds. Its neck vertebrae were specially strengthened, giving it immensely powerful neck muscles, powering it's huge head into prey like an axe. It's bones were hollow, making it light and also very fast! A downside of this was the hollow bones were delicate and could easily break if whacked by struggling prey. Its arms were longer than T-Rex's and ended with three cruel curved grappling hook talons, for locking onto prey. To prevent dislocation when holding on to frantic victims the joint was padded up heavily with cartilage. The consequence of this however was that its arms could only move 133 degrees back and forwards and it's up and down movement was pitiful! It had a long stiff tail used as a counterbalance and heavily muscled legs. However The most notable feature of Acro, was a low hump of fat like a camel's, that ran down it's back. The function of this hump was probably to hold fat during tough times and to show off to others of it's species. For example, during the mating season a male would probably show off his hump to display to females. This would show how much fat reserves he had and in extension, how good a hunter that male is. The better the hunter, the more likely he is to pass on his genes and create Acros that share their dads deadly power. Talk about survival of the fattest!
Acro was an Apex predator, the top of the food chain, it ate almost whatever it liked, Tenontosaurus, a large ornithopod, relying on a strong slap from it's tail to discourage hunters and iguanodon, a highly successful, herbivore, that could kick, run and impale attackers,were probably starters, but for the main course it liked best the hardest prey to nail out of all, fully grown giant Sauropods. Sauropods are enormous plant eating dinosaurs, the biggest were longer than blue whales and weighed about 70 tons. the ones alive during Acro's reign were some of the biggest and included the tallest animal ever to walk the earth, Sauroposeidon, translated it means lizard earthquake god, It was an awe inspiring giant reptile, 34m long and 17m tall, it dwarfed Acro. So just how did Acro kill such a behemoth? Well fossil footprints discovered recently can unlock this starling secret and give us a glimpse of three Acros fight for survival, the next best thing to a camera in the Cretaceous.
Range and time
Acro skeletons have been found throughout America's Wild West. Texas, Oklahoma and Wyoming all have provided fossils of this super predator but in reality it probably had a wider range. It lived back between 125 and 100 MYA (million years ago) judging from the age of the rock in which it was recovered. It shared the area and time with the small Dromaeosaur, Deinonychus, on which the raptors in
Jurassic Park
are modeled. However, despite killer instinct and a deadly appetite it was tiny and was no rival to Acro whatsoever.
Ask anyone the name of a terrifying carnivorous dinosaur and that person will probably say T-Rex, but there are other primeval monsters, beasts that would scare the living daylights out of the "king of the tyrant lizards", creatures that could kill heavily defended animals 6 times their size. This is only one of them. It's almost as big as T-Rex, just as terrifying as T-Rex and many, many times more dangerous. This is Acrocanthosaurus!
An epic struggle
The footprints are in the Paluxy river in Dinosaur Valley State Park, USA. The footprints first show a herd of huge sauropods trotting as fast as they can along the coast of the American West Interior Seaway. Behind them is a pack of three Acros. The pack singles out a sauropod and runs towards it. The first and second Acros are struck down by the behemoth, but the last ploughs on and reaches the sauropod. It smashes it's jaw full of saw-blade teeth down into the sauropod and latches on for dear life with it's lethal grappling hook claws, one foot hopping on the sand the other in the air. Then it lets go, tearing enomous chunks out of the sauropod. here the fossil record ends, but we can reconstruct the rest.
The sauropod staggers and stops running. it turns it's tail towards the attacker and prepares to smash it's head, but Acro leaps onto the sauropod and again wounds it. This continues until the sauropod has lost so much blood, it collapses onto the sand and dies in agony.
Deinonychus, the small but ruthless mob attacker!
A Video
I didn't make this, I found it on Youtube
All that is left of Acro, are fossilised remains, the ghosts of the actual dinosaur
Full transcript