Balance and Strength - Estimating the Maximum Prey-Lifting Potential of the Large Predatory Dinosaur Carcharodontosaurus saharicus

Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2015 Aug;298(8):1367-75. doi: 10.1002/ar.23164. Epub 2015 May 6.


Motivated by the work of palaeo-art "Double Death (2011)," a biomechanical analysis using three-dimensional digital models was conducted to assess the potential of a pair of the large, Late Cretaceous theropod dinosaur Carcharodontosaurus saharicus to successfully lift a medium-sized sauropod and not lose balance. Limaysaurus tessonei from the Late Cretaceous of South America was chosen as the sauropod as it is more completely known, but closely related to the rebbachisaurid sauropods found in the same deposits with C. saharicus. The body models incorporate the details of the low-density regions associated with lungs, systems of air sacs, and pneumatized axial skeletal regions. These details, along with the surface meshes of the models, were used to estimate the body masses and centers of mass of the two animals. It was found that a 6 t C. saharicus could successfully lift a mass of 2.5 t and not lose balance as the combined center of mass of the body and the load in the jaws would still be over the feet. However, the neck muscles were found to only be capable of producing enough force to hold up the head with an added mass of 424 kg held at the midpoint of the maxillary tooth row. The jaw adductor muscles were more powerful, and could have held a load of 512 kg. The more limiting neck constraint leads to the conclusion that two, adult C. saharicus could successfully lift a L. tessonei with a maximum body mass of 850 kg and a body length of 8.3 m.

Keywords: Dinosauria; Theropoda; balance; bite force; center of mass; neck and jaw muscles; predation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Bite Force*
  • Body Weight
  • Dinosaurs / anatomy & histology
  • Dinosaurs / classification
  • Dinosaurs / physiology*
  • Fossils
  • Masticatory Muscles / anatomy & histology
  • Masticatory Muscles / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Neck Muscles / anatomy & histology
  • Neck Muscles / physiology*
  • Postural Balance*
  • Predatory Behavior*