Argentine paleontologists have announced the discovery of an apex predatory dinosaur that measured three stories from nose to tail and gutted its prey with sharp, curved claws.
The six-ton giant, the largest megaraptor unearthed so far, fed on smaller dinosaurs, which it tore to pieces with its claws before burrowing into their guts, paleontologist Mauro Aranciaga told AFP.
It would have been the “apex predator” of its time, Aranciaga said — and deserves its chilling scientific name, the maip macrothorax.
Novas compares the Maip macrothorax fossils to a book. (Juan Mabromata/AFP)
The first part, “Maip”, is derived from an “evil” mythological figure of the indigenous people of the Aonikenk in Patagonia.
The figure has been linked to “the shadow of death” that “kills with a cold wind” in the Andes, according to a study reporting the find in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.
The second part, macrothorax, refers to the enormous expanse of the creature’s chest cavity – about 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) across.
The newly identified monster was 9 to 10 meters long, larger than any previously discovered species of megaraptor – a group of carnivorous giants that Aranciaga’s team says once roamed what is now South America.
It lived about 70 million years ago towards the end of the Cretaceous period in what was then a tropical forest, long before the Andes Mountains and glaciers that define Patagonia today.
Researchers examine fossil bones from Maip macrothorax. (Juan Mabromata/AFP)
The killer reptile had two sharp, curved claws on each front paw, each claw about 40 centimeters long.
Aranciaga, now 29, was lucky enough to find the first piece of Maip on his first-ever professional expedition to Argentina’s Santa Cruz province three years ago.
This led to months of meticulous digging, cleaning, and classifying a large store of bones: vertebrae, as well as parts of ribs, hips, tails, and arms.
“When I lifted the vertebra and saw that it had the characteristics of a megaraptor, it was really a huge thrill,” recalls Aranciaga.
“Somehow I fulfilled my childhood dream… to find a new fossil and it turned out to be Megaraptor: the group I specialize in,” he told AFP.
According to Fernando Novas of the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences’ Laboratory of Comparative Anatomy, Maip was one of the last megaraptors to inhabit Earth before the dinosaurs died out about 66 million years ago.
It’s also the southernmost megaraptor ever found, added Aranciaga, a PhD student at Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council (Conicet).
© Agence France-Presse