The genus Gorgosaurus consists of theropod tyrannosaurid saurischian dinosaurs that inhabited the Earth approximately 76 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, in the Late Stage, in the territory currently occupied by North America (United States and Canada).
The name of Gorgosaurus comes from Latin and means “terrible lizard”; and it seems that it mentions his name because he could have been one of the biggest and most terrible hunters of his time.
It is even thought that the Gorgosaurus was one of the ancestors of the well-known Tyrannosaurus Rex, since the areas where the remains have been found are very close or even the same.
Taxonomy of the dinosaur
- The specimen belonged to the Animalia Kingdom.
- The animal was within the Filo or Chordata Division.
- The animal belonged to the Sauropsida class.
- It belonged to the order Saurischia, to the suborder of the Theropods and its suborder was the so-called Coelurosauria.
- It belonged to the family called Tyrannosauridae and to the subfamily Albertosaurinae.
- Its genus was the Gorgosaurus.
- It was part of the species Gorgosaurus libratus.
Discovery of the Gorgosaurus
The first findings of this dinosaur took place in the Canadian province of Alberta in 1913 and its discoverer was Charles M. Sternberg, who in 1917 also found another skeleton of this dinosaur.
This last discovery by Sternberg would later be recorded in the studies carried out by William Diller Matthew and Barnum Brown, who also in 1923 described in a study the finding of four complete gorgosaurus skulls in the Red Deer River, also in Alberta, Canada.
But it was actually geologist and paleontologist Lawrence Lambe who in 1914 documented and publicized the existence of this incredible theropod carnivore, calling it Gorgosaurus libratus.
Other fossil structures have also been found in Montana, United States, such as some premaxillary teeth made known by the paleontologist and naturist Joseph Leidy in 1856.
With this finding it happened as in many others where the fossils found are badly catalogued. On this occasion they said that the teeth found belonged to a Deinodon, another carnivorous theropod dinosaur from the same period.
It was Matthew and Brown who finally catalogued these teeth as belonging to gorgosaurus in 1922.
Characteristics of the Gorgosaurus
It is a dinosaur that could measure up to 9 meters in length, that is from head to tail, with a height of about 3 meters and its weight would be 2 to 2.5 tons.
If you remember the dimensions of Tyrannosaurus or Tarbosaurus for example, they are bigger. But the main body characteristics are similar, as they all belong to the group of Tyrannosaurs.
Nevertheless and so that you know much better the gorgosaurus we are going to describe it to you more detailed below:
It is one of the dinosaurs with more fossils found so far, with a total of twenty bone structures. Something that as you can imagine has helped in great measure to know it very well.
It has a very large head in proportion to the rest of the body. A characteristic that differentiates it from the rest of the dinosaurs belonging to the same group.
In fact, a huge skull with a length of 99 cm has been found!
Logically, like the vast majority of dinosaurs, its skull has a series of depressions or fenestra that help it to reduce its weight.
Its muzzle was flattened and the bony elements that belonged to the nose were linked to the middle of the skull; something that also happened with the parietal bones. These characteristics are generally found in the whole family of Tyrannosauridae.
Another feature found in this dinosaur is a kind of small crest or crescent-shaped protrusion that rises from the tear duct and is located in front of each eye.
The crescent shape comes because the eye cavity is circular and not oval as usual.
It had between 64 and 72 teeth divided between the upper and lower jaws. And we’re going to place them in the jaw to give you a better idea:
8 premaxillary or incisor teeth, which are smaller than the other D-shaped teeth
The rest of the teeth are arranged between both jaws and are oval in shape
Mind you, like all other tyrannosaurs, his neck is S-shaped.
Their upper limbs were smaller and had only a couple of fingers. While its hind legs were formed by four toes, one of them called hallux and which would correspond to the first toe starting to count from the inside, which would not touch the ground. As it happens for example to dogs on their hind legs, this way you will get a better idea.
Another remarkable feature of their hind legs is their length, which is longer than that of the rest of the dinosaurs belonging to the Tyrannosaurid group.
A Gorgosaurus femur measuring 105 centimeters was even found!
Something that also calls a lot of attention in this dinosaur is that when they are young, the tibia is longer than the femur itself. The size of the femur is equalised between the two bones as the Gorgosaurus matures.
A characteristic of dinosaurs when they are fast is precisely when their tibia is longer than the femur.
Their tail was long and heavy and, as it is believed to happen in other dinosaurs, it would mainly serve to keep the balance of the body in relation to its huge head, the center of mass being at the height of the hips.
Its skin is soft and has no scales, according to the study carried out by paleontologist Phil Currie in 2001.
In fact, if we had to compare how its skin was, we could make it similar to the skin of today’s birds, but without feathers. Which is funny, isn’t it? Because it’s not usually the case with dinosaurs, which are either covered by scales or a type of plumage.
Other curiosities of the Gorgosaurus
We are going to tell you about some of the peculiarities of this dinosaur so that you can get to know it even better:
Gorgosaurus or Albertosaurus
Gorgosaurus is directly related to another theropod carnivore, Albertosaurus. And it also resembles, though somewhat less so, Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Both dinosaurs, Gorgosaurus and Albertosaurus, have been confused on numerous occasions due to the great resemblance between them.
The differences between them are minimal, so special attention must be paid to differentiate them. For example, one of these differences is found in the skull and also in the shape of the teeth.
Living with other carnivores
Another curiosity that has been discovered since the Dinosaur Park Formation, located in southern Alberta, Canada, where a large number of dinosaur fossils have been found, turtles, crocodiles, fish… belongs to the Provincial Dinosaur Park, and UNESCO declared this place a World Heritage Site.
But going back to our curiosity… it is the first place where fossils of two genera of tyrannosaurs have been found that have coexisted together in the same place.
We’re talking logically about Gorgosaurus and Daspletosaurus.
Everything made us think at first that they both lived, shared and would surely compete for the territory and obviously for food.
But later excavations have come to point out that the Gorgosaurus would be located in the most northern area, whereas the Daspletosaurus would be to the south. Taking as a reference that both lived in the Dinosaur Park Formation.
Feeding and behavior
It has come to be defined as a super predator, considering it to be one of the most feared carnivores of the time, which fed on ceratopsids and hadrosaurids.
The discovery of fossils belonging to different individuals is believed to have led to the belief that they lived in a herd and looked after each other, and that they might even have hunted together.
Even though he is considered one of the most feared predators, there is a debate today as to whether he was really a carnivore or a scavenger. Curious, isn’t it?
We’ll keep an eye out for any changes. For now, we’ll continue to classify him as a carnivorous predator.
We’ve told you before what the gorgosaurus looked like, but what we haven’t told you is that this dinosaur kept growing!
Let’s see, like almost all living things, the fastest and most significant growth phases occur until puberty or sexual maturity.
So we could say that the gorgosaurus could increase its size up to 50 kilos per year until that moment. Then logically this growth rate would be reduced, but it would never stop.