The island of Madagascar is known in modern times for its fantastic variety creatures and flora, unlike anything else on the planet. Located off the south-east coast of Africa, the fauna of the island have evolved separately from those of the main continent for millions of years - and with astonishing results.
Though known mainly today for its living creatures, Madagascar also boasts a stunningly unique fossil record. The Maevarano formation, formed at the same time that T. rex and Triceratops roamed North America, but is home to very different creatures - strange carnivores with protruding lower teeth, enormous frogs perhaps large enough to eat baby dinosaurs, long necked titanosaurs, and the king of the Maevarano itself, here on display: Majungasaurus.
Majungasaurus belonged to the ceratosaur family, a group which once roamed here in Utah but had been long extinct in the northern continents by the time Tyrannosaurus arrived. Majungasaurus was the malagasi tyrant king- it filled the apex predator niche. It is thought that is ate most things in its envirmonment, including the giant long-necked titanosaur Rapetosaurus. However, while majungasaur tooth marks have been found on these titan bones, it is unclear whether these represent hunting or scavenging behavior.
Majungasaurus' had very interesting structures on its forehead and nose, rough and thickened areas of bone that may indicate that it bore decorative scales in these areas. Many iguanas today bear similar features on their skulls, which tend to correspond with scale decoration. In Majungasaurus, these features are so thick that upon the discovery of early skull elements, scientists thought it was a bone-headed head-butting pachycephalosaur (pictured in the gallery above)!
Perhaps the most fascinating discovery surrounding Majungasaurus has been the evidence of cannibalism found on its bones. Tooth marks on Majungasaurus bones suggest that the creature ate its own kind. Once more, it is unclear whether the animals killed and ate each other, or whether the marks simply show scavenging behavior.
While similar to its distant tyrannosaur cousins in many ways, Majungasaurus outdid them in one very noteable respect: its arms were proportionately even smaller, to the point where its elbows had shriveled into its wrists! Truly a strange and fascinating animal.
Lindworm Fountain in Klagenfurt, wood engraving about 1880.