Patagotitan v. Kentrosaurus
The sun beats down on a barren landscape of sand dunes and sparse vegetation. It is the middle of summer, and the temperatures are punishing, forcing plant and animal life to stretch to their limits to survive. Most of the fauna here in the Barun Goyot Formation of what would become modern day Mongolia are fairly small, larger sauropods being less common. The lumbering presence of massive Patagotitan is therefore somewhat unusual, limping along, following the curve of the dunes.
He is seeking water in this arid landscape, overheating as his massive body struggles to shed the excessive energy his skin is absorbing from the sun. He is used to a more forested, humid climate, and is struggling in this unfamiliar environment. His injured leg is not doing well, and he is unable to rest it for long enough to give it a chance to heal properly. The infection is causing the bone to react with painful growths, documenting the severity of the injury, and the kind of fossil evidence which palaeontologists can later use to interpret the life history of an animal (Butler et al. 2013).
The few oases in this environment are heavily trafficked by the local fauna, being essential resources for survival. Kentrosaurus has found such an oasis, and after quenching her thirst, has wallowed into the mud, coating her healing leg as well as the majority of her body with a soothing layer of cool muck. She has lost her sight in the eye that was injured in her battle with Veterupristisaurus, but the wound is healing cleanly now with no infection. She is feeling better than she has in a long time, having breakfasted earlier that day on some araucaria seedlings.
Patagotitan spots the oasis that Kentrosaurus is currently embedded in, one of the benefits of having a vantage point from one of the tallest necks in the animal kingdom, and approaches the water. Unfortunately for Patagotitan, he did not spot the mud-coated Kentrosaurus inadvertently perfectly camouflaged in her surroundings. She has watched him approach however, and twitches her long spiked tail at his foot when it lands too close. Two of the 70 centimeter long spikes (Mallison 2011) land a jab on Patagotitan’s ankle, startling him into a quick side step. Tragically, his instinctive reaction has caused him to put too much weight on his injured left forelimb. It buckles underneath his weight and he falls heavily onto his side with a resounding crash like rolling thunder.
While the prick to his ankle was not serious, his collapse will prove fatal. In his weakened and overheated condition, he does not have the strength to rise to his feet, and will slowly die of dehydration next to the small oasis. Kentrosaurus relaxes back into the mud, dozing off to the sound of the slow breathing of the dying Patagotitan on the nearby bank.