Abelisaurus (Wikimedia Commons).


Abelisaurus (Greek for "Abel's lizard"); pronounced AY-bell-ih-SORE-us


Woodlands of South America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (85-80 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 30 feet long and 2 tons



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large head with small teeth; openings in skull above jaws


About Abelisaurus

"Abel's lizard" (so named because it was discovered by the Argentinian paleontologist Roberto Abel) is known by only a single skull.

Although entire dinosaurs have been reconstructed from less, this lack of fossil evidence has forced paleontologists to hazard some guesses about this South American dinosaur. As befitting its theropod lineage, it's believed that Abelisaurus resembled a scaled-down Tyrannosaurus Rex, with fairly short arms and a bipedal gait, and "only" weighing about two tons, max.

The one odd feature of Abelisaurus (at least, the one that we know of for sure) is the assortment of large holes in its skull, called "fenestrae," above the jaw. It's likely that these evolved to lighten the weight of this dinosaur's massive head, which otherwise might have unbalanced its entire body.

By the way, Abelisaurus has lent its name to an entire family of theropod dinosaurs, the "abelisaurs"--which includes such notable meat-eaters as the stubby-armed Carnotaurus and Majungatholus. As far as we know, abelisaurs were restricted to the southern island continent of Gondwana during the Cretaceous period, which today corresponds to Africa, South America and Madagascar.