Named By: Henry Fairfield Osborn - 1905.
Synonyms: Deinodon sarcophagus, Albertosaurus arctunguis, Deinodon arctunguis.
Classification: Chordata, Reptilia, Dinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda, Tyrannosauridae, Albertosaurinae.
Species: A. sarcpohagus.
Size: Large individuals grew to over 10 meters long.
Known locations: Canada, Alberta.
Time period: Campanian of the Cretaceous
Fossil representation: Many individuals are known including a bone bed that contains the remains of twenty-two individuals in the same location.
first remains of Albertosaurus were recovered from
the Horseshoe Canyon
Formation in 1884, and these were the type specimen along with a
smaller skull and some of the post crania. However Albertosaurus
not yet identified and when these parts were studied in 1892 by
Edward Drinker Cope, he assigned them to another dinosaur called
Laelaps incrassatus that he had named earlier in
1866. Now this is
where things start to get confusing because the name Laelaps
already been applied to a mite, and because of this Othniel Charles
Marsh had changed Laelaps to Dryptosaurus
in 1877. Anyone who
recognises the names Marsh and Cope is probably already familiar with
the 'Bone Wars' and the fierce rivalry between them. Cope refused
to acknowledge the change and it was up to the eminent palaeontologist
Lawrence Lambe to formally rename the specimens Dryptosaurus
incrassatus. This still was not the end because the
Henry Fairfield Osborn disputed the renaming citing two key reasons.
The first was that Dyptosaurus incrassatus
incrassatus) was based only upon the description of generic
tyrannosaur teeth with no bone material to back it up, thus making
accurate comparison near impossible. The second was that the fossil
material recovered was different enough from the Dryptosaurus
species D. aquilunguis to be considered its own
species. So in
1905, Osborn renamed the material Albertosaurus
in reference to the
part of the world it was found.
Today we know enough about Albertosaurus to be certain it deserves its own genus, but there is now another bit of contention associated with it. Some palaeontologists have claimed that another dinosaur named Gorgosaurus is actually a species of Albertosaurus. Both are members of the tyrannosauridae group and both have a similar morphology, being more gracile than other members such as Tyrannosaurus and Daspletosaurus. On the other hand, some palaeontologists claim that while they are similar, there are enough differences between them to distinguish the two and thus keep them separate. This debate is still on going and is not likely to be settled until further study or new fossil material can point towards which is more correct.
Like the other tyrannosaurids, Albertosaurus had conical 'banana teeth'. Although not suitable for slicing flesh, they could crunch though bone and rip flesh from a carcass. In Albertosaurus the teeth seem to have crack like serration in a similar fashion found in the teeth of the ancient pelycosaur Dimetrodon. One thing that Albertosaurus has, that Dimetrodon did not, is the presence of ampulla at the base of the crack. This is a round void that displaces stress forces placed on the teeth when Albertosaurus bit into something, significantly increasing their resilience. Albertosaurus also had more teeth than the larger members of the tyrannosaurids with over sixty in its mouth.
There is some evidence to suggest that Albertosaurus may have actually been a pack hunter. The palaeontologist Barnum Brown had discovered a bone bed containing multiple tyrannosaur remains in 1910. Brown did not have time to excavate the site properly and so took what he could, but after this the site was forgotten and lost. It was not until 1997 when a team led by Dr Philip J. Currie rediscovered the bed, that its significance was realised to modern day science.
There are enough remains in what is now called the Dry Island bone bed to identify twenty-two individuals of all different ages and sizes. Not all are convinced about the pack theory stating that they may have been drawn together by ecological factors such as a drought forcing them around a watering hole. Others have stated they may have been killed by their own kind in competition for feeding rights at a carcass. What has to be remembered here is that only Albertosaurus remains were found, and the individuals were of different ages. Pack hunting animals today also form groups of just one species, with individuals of different ages represented in the same group. Regardless of whether Albertosaurus did or did not hunt in packs, the fossil material recovered from the Dry Island bone bed has allowed palaeontologists to study the way Albertosaurus and by extension other tyrannosaurids may have grown. In fact Albertosaurus is now the best known of the tyrannosaurids.
It is thought that Albertosaurus would have grown steadily for the first few years of its life before undergoing a massive growth spurt until reaching sexual maturity. Once this happens, growth slows down to a much slower rate until the individual reaches its maximum potential size or it dies from some other means. It’s possible that the stresses exerted upon the body by such rapid growth may actually cause the body to 'burn out' and become more susceptible to disease or other ailments in all but the healthiest of individuals. This would explain the large number of adult Albertosaurus specimens recovered that had not yet reached their maximum potential size, with most approaching nine meters in length as opposed to the maximum recorded ten.