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Afrovenator (Marianna Ruiz Villareal)


Afrovenator (Greek for "African hunter"); pronounced AFF-ro-ven-ATE-or


Plains of northern Africa

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (135-125 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 30 feet long; weight unknown



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Numerous teeth; three claws on each hand

About Afrovenator:

Afrovenator is significant for two reasons: first, it's one of the few nearly complete theropod (meat-eating dinosaur) skeletons to be unearthed in northern Africa, and second, it appears to have been closely related to the western European Megalosaurus--yet more evidence for the distribution of continents during the early Cretaceous period.

However, ever since its discovery, the exact place occupied by Afrovenator in the theropod family tree has been a matter of some controversy. At various times, paleontologists have linked this dinosaur to putative descendants as diverse as Eustreptospondylus, Dubreuillosaurus, Allosaurus and even the massive Spinosaurus. The situation is complicated by the fact that, to date, Afrovenator is represented by only a single fossil specimen; further digs may shed more light on this dinosaur's affiliations.

Since it was one of his earliest discoveries, Afrovenator has become something of a calling card for the noted paleontologist Paul Sereno, who unearthed this dinosaur's bones in the African country of Niger in the early 1990's and carted the remains back to his home base at the University of Chicago, where they're currently in storage.

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