April 21, 2024

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In pictures | New giant dinosaur discovered in Argentina

In pictures |  New giant dinosaur discovered in Argentina

Archaeologists announced Thursday that they have discovered the remains of a new giant dinosaur in Argentina, notable for its huge head and small hands.

Called Meraxes gigas — after a dragon in the Game of Thrones series — the carnivore was discovered during a four-year excavation in northern Argentina’s Vadagonia. The skull was first discovered in 2012.

“We won the lottery and we found it on the first morning,” explained AFP Peter Makowicki of the University of Minnesota, USA, in the excavation.

The skull is more than 1.20 meters, the animal is more than ten meters and weighs about four tons. But its upper limbs are no more than 60 centimeters “half of the skull” and the animal cannot use them to “reach its mouth,” the researcher notes.

The team of scientists, who published the results of their research in the scientific journal Current Biology, believe that small-sized weapons gave the animal a distinct advantage in survival.

According to Makowiecki, as the head grew in size, it became the dominant tool in their predatory arsenal, taking over the function of the upper limbs in smaller creatures.

Juan Canale, study co-author and project manager at the Ernesto Bachmann Museum in Neuquen, southern Argentina, goes even further.

“I am convinced that these disproportionately reduced arms had a function. The skeleton shows significant muscle insertions and fully developed forelimbs, so the arms had strong muscles,” he explained in a press release.

“They may use their hands for their reproductive behavior, such as holding the female during mating or holding themselves up to get up after a break or fall.”

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Meraxes lived on Earth 90 to 100 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period, when the region was wetter, more forested and closer to the ocean, Makovicky points out.

They can live up to forty years, the age of dinosaurs. They presumably preyed on contemporaneous sauropods, whose remains have been found at the excavation site.

With his skull full of skulls, pits, bumps and small horns, Meraxus “certainly looked very majestic, he looked like a gargoyle,” Makovicky says.

“These are living animals, often subject to sexual selection,” the researcher underlines, adding that these species use their massive skulls as “billboards” to be noticed by potential mates.