A new species of dinosaur was discovered Thursday by paleontologists, who named the giant carnivore species ‘Meraxes gigas’. The latter resembles Tyrannosaurus rex, with a large head and tiny arms.
According to the findings of the researchers, whose analyzes were published in the journal Current Biology, the creatures’ small forelimbs are not an accident of evolution, but give the predators of the time certain survival advantages. The findings came after a four-year research period, when paleontologists conducted field expeditions including northern Patagonia, Argentina, beginning with unearthing a skull found in 2012.
The species name, Meraxes gigas, refers to a dragon from the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ book series that inspired the hit TV series ‘Game of Thrones’. The remains of Meraxes indicate that the dinosaur died at the age of around 45 and weighed around four tonnes (the species could have been up to 11 meters long), the researchers said in their reports. . They believe the dinosaur lived 90 to 100 million years ago in what is now Argentina.
According to the researchers, the new species is the most complete carcharodontosaurid in the southern hemisphere, and it reflects the peak of diversity of this family, just before their extinction. The term carcharodontosaurid refers to a group of species of carnivorous theropod dinosaurs. The anatomy of this group, along with that of Tyrannosaurus rex and abelisaurids, other giant carnivorous dinosaurs, is defined by large and comparatively small skulls and feet.
Until this discovery, this type of anatomy was still very poorly understood. But Meraxes gigas may be putting together some of the pieces of the puzzle that might just be a game-changer. Indeed, the skeletal discoveries in Argentina yielded groundbreaking anatomical information, as they included an almost complete forelimb that allowed researchers to understand a “remarkable degree of parallelism” between tyrannosaurids and carcharodontosaurids.
The findings have also given researchers a better understanding of the skulls of these species. The findings add that the discovery of the skeleton of Meraxes gigs shows “that carcharodontosaurids reached a peak of diversity shortly before their extinction, with high rates of trait evolution in facial ornamentation, possibly related to a social signaling role”.
Understand the evolution of dinosaurs
Scientists told Reuters that the short forearms are now understood to indicate that these dinosaurs relied on their skulls to attack their prey. “Despite their powerful appearance, it’s hard to imagine they were used much because they barely protrude beyond the body and couldn’t have reached the huge mouth” University of Minnesota paleontologist and study co-author Pete Makovicky told Reuters. Instead, the researchers believe that the forearms were primarily used for mating activities.
Fascinating, isn’t it?