The Allosaurus Was A Cannibal Dinosaur, Study Shows

allosaurus jurassic world
Image: Universal Pictures

Even if you’re not a paleontologist, you’ll know the Allosaurus was a bitey dinosaur thanks to the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World series. A new study shows it liked eating other dinosaurs so much, it would occasionally take on the challenge of choosing another Allosaurus for its meal.

A study undertaken by U.S. researchers, and published in PLOS One, has examined a set of dinosaur fossils found at the Mygatt-Moore Quarry in Colorado and made an intriguing discovery about some questionable bitemarks.

Among the 2,368 vertebrate fossils examined from the Upper Jurassic period, 684 specimens — or 28.9 per cent — had at least one bite mark from a carnivorous dinosaur. The study determined the culprits for many of those bite marks could be traced back to two dinosaurs living around the time — the Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus.

What’s particularly interesting is that the researchers found it wasn’t just peaceful herbivores getting the chomp, just over 10 per cent of the bone fossils belonged to other prominent carnivores and had bite marks consistent with the Allosaurus’ dentures. Some of those were specifically Allosaurus bones showing it was potentially a hungry cannibal.

It’s unlikely the Allosaurus was actively hunting its kin, the study notes, rather that food scarcity made it both an opportunist and a scavenger.

“In general, predators will take advantage of the most easily attained food resources available to them, and scavenging represents, in essence, an opportunity for a free meal (in terms of energy expenditures),” the study’s discussion notes read.

“In nutrient poor environments, more common and complete scavenging can become a critical source of nutrients for carnivores.”

Instead, given the quarry may have once been in an area prone to flooding and filled with mud, it was more likely that many of the bite marks were recorded after an Allosaurus chomped on a rotting carcass. Because of the geography, the study’s authors believe carcasses would have remained exposed for longer allowing for more scavenging than usual, which could explain the higher incidence of bite marks.

Still, it marks an important find for researchers studying the ecology of carnivores at this time and is the first known example of cannibalism within the species.

The Allosaurus is depicted in the Jurassic films as a fierce carnivore but is often left in the shadow of its much bigger, much scarier cousins, the T-Rex and Spinosaurus.

The study might finally set the record straight for once — the Allosaurus was a big, scary boy too and could easily be a candidate for villain in any upcoming additions to the series. Take note, screenwriters.