Majungasaurus vs. Kentrosaurus
The scene is a wide, muddy tidal flat in northern Madagascar near the end of the Cretaceous. On one side, the Indian Ocean laps at the edge of the broad shoreline. On the other, the land rises into an arid, scrubby lowland plain.
Along the mud flat strides a long, low-built Majungasaurus. A member of the abelisaur family, he’s a strange creature compared to other large predators like the tyrannosaurs that stalked North America and Asia during this time. Majungasaurus has a stout, blunt skull ornamented with gnarly bosses and a small spike on top of his head. His arms are stubby, and barely protrude from the dinosaur’s torso. The head ornamentation is likely for display, but right now Majungasaurus is more concerned with finding something to eat.
Suddenly, across the mud flat the Majungasaurus spots an equally strange dinosaur, one he’s never seen before. It’s the Tanzanian stegosaur Kentrosaurus. At four meters long and decked out with narrow dorsal plates and spikes, this herbivore dates back to the distant past of the late Jurassic. The new setting she finds herself in, though, isn’t dramatically different from her homeland, now the Tendaguru Formation.
Majungasaurus is more accustomed to preying on the small sauropod Rapetosaurus that shares his island home (as well as, on rare occasions, other Majungasaurus), but from here the Kentrosaurus looks like easy enough prey to the theropod. Kicking off on his short yet powerful legs, the Majungasaurus dashes towards the slower Kentrosaurus.
While the theropod isn’t one of her regular predators, the Kentrosaurus is used to fending off attacks from large carnivores. She turns her back at the advancing Majungasaurus, looking backwards and curving her tensed, spiked tail (Mallison, 2010). Majungasaurus is accustomed to prey using their tails as defence, though not with the bony spikes involved. he makes a wide circle and tries to get around the front to Kentrosaurus.
Kentrosaurus isn’t about to let this happen, though. She pivots around, keeping her spiked rear end facing the predator like a big, scaly porcupine. Majungasaurus continues to try and maneuver to the front of Kentrosaurus, but the relatively short legs and long, low body of the dinosaur hinder his agility. Kentrosaurus keeps her defences up, her tail tensed and ready to lash out at any moment.
Majungasaurus quickly decides to risk an attack. Having never battled a creature like Kentrosaurus before, he has no knowledge of just what the herbivore’s defences can inflict. Majungasaurus makes a powerful dash at Kentrosaurus, his broad mouth open wide. The jaws and teeth of the predator are well-suited for grabbing and holding tightly onto prey until it succumbs, much like a modern tiger (Valkenburgh & Molnar, 2002). The neck of Kentrosaurus is his target.
However, this is what Kentrosaurus has been preparing for. When the theropod is in range, Kentrosaurus lashes out with her powerful tail, whipping the end of it straight for the open jaws of Majungasaurus. One of the bony tail spikes, covered in a pointed sheath of horn, is driven deep into the underside of the skull of Majungasaurus. Immediately the theropod drops, thrashes on the ground for a second, and then goes limp. With a thrash of her tail, Kentrosaurus pulls herself free of the dead Majungasaurus, a little shaken but unharmed.