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Megalosaur

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Megalosaur

The classic shape of a tetanuran - one of the large flesh-eating theropod dinosaurs - is retained in this modern megalosaur. Its sharp teeth and the powerful claws on the forelimbs are used for holding prey and tearing it up. The actual killing is done with great talons on the hind feet. As it walks the heavy head is held out at the front, balanced by the long heavy tail behind.

The megalosaur, Megalosaurus modernus, is a surviving megalosaurid from the Mesozoic. It survives in the tropical forests of Madagascar. A species of Dwarf Megalosaur inhabits the smaller Seychelles islands.

The boughs and evergreen leaves of the tropical forest filter the sunlight into fine steamy beams that throw a dappled pattern down into the gloom of the jungle floor. This is the domain of the brightly-colored birds, the pterosaurs, with their larger wings, being banished to the more open spaces above. Suddenly the raucous chattering of the birds is hushed, and a deep still silence falls in the shadowy forest. The birds have sensed something dangerous. The light patterns ply upon the leathery surface of something dark and indistinct in the sparse undergrowth. With a gasp of air from cavernous lungs, a huge animal rises to its hind feet, pushing itself up on massive legs, steadying itself with clawed forefeet. The great eyes, gummy after sleep and torpor, blink and look around. The huge head contains only enough intelligence to tell the megalosaur that it is hungry again. Slowly it crushes its way through the shadows to the decaying corpse of an herbivorous non-avian dinosaur, scattering the scavenging birds and mammals, and resumes the meal that it abandoned days before.

Leathery skin? Low intelligence? It is as if time had been turned back to the Mesozoic period when the most important meat-eating dinosaurs were the vast lumbering tetanurans.

The huge island of Madagascar that the megalosaur inhabits lies off the east coast of the African continent. Much of the geographical and climatic changes that affected the rest of the world have passed this island by, and there has been little impetus for evolutionary change. This island is almost a time capsule, revealing what animal life was like on Gondwana hundreds of millions of years ago. The biggest predator of the island is the megalosaur. It is a different species of Megalosaurus from that which inhabited in Jurassic times, but it is still a large and active predator, about 8 to 10 meters (27-33 feet) long, that prowls through the forests, sometimes singly and sometimes in packs, hunting the large plant-eaters of the island (such as titanosaurs). As it grows older and slower it lives as a solitary scavenger, devouring the corpses of already dead animals and the remains of the kills of younger megalosaurs.

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