Dinosaur facts: Albertosaurus

The Albertosaurus was a dinosaur that lived in the late Cretaceous period, It may not have been as large as its famous cousin the Tyrannosaurus Rex but it still deserves a mention when discussing palaeontology.

It roamed the earth about 76-74 million years ago towards the end of the Mesozoic. It was a carnivorous beast preying on other herbivorous dinosaurs to survive. It is perfectly well equipped for this task with two huge powerful legs allowing to reach speeds of 25-230 miles per hour and a vicious set of claws it had an arsenal tailored for hunting. In contrast however there is still some debate on weather this dinosaur could actually exploit its muscular limbs and run. The problem is it had extremely small forelimbs which would prove useless if the creature was ever to fall over.

Bruce Rothschild of the Arthritis Centre of North east Ohio
in Youngstown studied the family of two-legged dinosaurs known
as Therapods, which includes the deadly Tyrannosaurus Rex.
He X-rayed fossil skeletons and found that ribs from some
specimens of a smaller species known as Allosaurus showed the
kind of fractures that would have been caused by a belly flop on
to hard ground while running.”  

April 16, 1998 New Scientist

The anatomy of the Albertosaurus is similar to that of its younger cousin the Tyrannosaurus Rex: the head is disproportionately large compared to the body, a long tail used for balancing and two tiny forearms with two fingers on each. The eyes however of the Albertosaurus faced sideways as a poses to directly ahead of them, this as a result meant that it could not judge distances effectively which in turn reduced its hunting capabilities as the ability to jump on prey was compromised.

The head of Albertosaurus had dual small, blunt horns, in front of its eyes. The purpose of these are not fully understood and various different reasons could be put forward to explain them; they could exist just for show much like the comb on a chicken today. It is likely that the male had technicolour skin covering their surface area to attract the females during mating season. It is another similarity it shares with modern birds, with the males brightly coloured to attract females.

Its fossilised bones are fairly common , primarily their teeth as it is thought that they become displaced during feeding. Several different species have now been identified Albertosaurus sarcophagus and Albertosaurus libratus are the most common. Albertosaurus lancensis has been recently renamed Nanotyrannus. 

Albertosaurus was first unearthed by Joseph Burr Tyrrell in western Canada in 1884. Albertosaurus was named in 1884 by H. F. Osborn. Many Albertosaurus fossils have been found in Canada ,western USA and Alberta the state from which it derived its name.  Fossils called Gorgosaurus turned out to be juvenile (young) examples of Albertosaurus.

Overall, the Albertosaurus was a prime example of a predator in the late Cretaceous. Roaming throughout northern Asia and north western america it had a repertoire of features and and arsenal of weapons that made it a carnivore at the top of the food chain. This dinosaur is often hidden by the shadow cast by more prominent dinosaurs but it still deserves a mention in the annals of history.