To develop a widely applicable method to estimate body size in theropods, the scaling relationship between skull length, body length, and body mass was investigated using 13 strictly carnivorous, non-avialan theropod taxa ranging in size from the 1-m Sinosauropteryx prima to the 12-m Tyrannosaurus rex. Body length was obtained from the literature for complete to nearly-complete specimens and body mass was obtained from three-dimensional mathematical slicing of those same specimens to ensure accurate body length-body mass associations. Least-square regressions reveal a tight correlation between skull length and body length (SK-BL) and skull length and body mass (SK-BM). The SK-BL regression is negatively allometric, which indicates that skulls become longer relative to body length with increasing body size. In contrast, the SK-BM regression is positively allometric, indicating that body mass increases faster than skull length with increasing body size. These conclusions confirm that the common practice of scaling isometrically smaller relatives of a given taxon to obtain body length and body mass estimates is not valid. Although predictive equations derived from the regressions fail to predict accurately body size in abelisaurids and juvenile theropods due to their different head/body proportions, they produce accurate body size estimates for theropods of known body size, thus validating their applicability. Body size estimates for Carcharodontosaurus and Giganotosaurus, approaching 13 m and 14 tons, suggest that they may have surpassed Tyrannosaurus in size. A revised body size estimate for a large Spinosaurus specimen suggests a much shorter and heavier animal than recently suggested.
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Vol. 27 • No. 1