Masiakasaurus (vicious lizard) is a strange carnivorous dinosaur that was first named in 2001. Its jaws are oddly shaped with protruding teeth, making it quite unique amongst theropod dinosaurs. It lived until the end of the late Cretaceous period in Madagascar, until the end of the age of dinosaurs around 65 million years ago.
Masiakasaurus was a small dinosaur that walked on two legs, using its long tail for balance. Compared to most other theropod dinosaurs, it had a long neck relative to its body size, and its arms were quite short. The most distinguishing characteristic of Masiakasaurus is its odd jaws, with the teeth protruding forward in the front.
In addition to its unusual jaws, the teeth of Masiakasaurus are quite unique. The front teeth are hooked, while its rear teeth are more conventional. The purpose of its jaws and teeth aren't known, though similar configurations found in living animals suggest that it may have fed on insects, or fish.
History of Discovery
Masiakasaurus was first described in 2001 from remains of at least six specimens, which provided roughly 40% of the total skeleton. Additional material was discovered in northern Madagascar and described in 2011, and now about 65% of the skeleton is known, giving us a good idea of what Masiakasaurus looked like.
Only one species of Masiakasaurus has been named, M. knopfleri. The word "masiaka" means "vicious" in Malagasy (the language of Madagascar) and saurus means lizard. The specific name refers to Mark Knopfler of the band Dire Straits. The paleontologists who discovered Masiakasaurus were said to have been inspired by his music during their expeiditions.
Masiakasaurus lived in late Cretaceous Madagascar, on a floodplain that was seasonally dry and dotted with coastal swamps.
1. Paul, G. (2010). The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs (pp. 82). Princeton, New Jersey: University Press Princeton.
2. Wikipedia: "Masiakasaurus" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masiakasaurus