Argentinian palaeontologists* have found an apex-predator* dinosaur that measured a monstrous three storeys from nose to tail and tore strips off its prey with sharp, curved claws.
The six-tonne giant, the largest megaraptor* unearthed to date, fed on smaller dinosaurs that it ripped to shreds with its talons* before digging into their intestines.
Palaeontologist Dr Mauro Aranciaga said the dino would have been the “apex predator” of its time – and well deserving of its chilling scientific name Maip macrothorax.
The first part, “Maip”, comes from an “evil” mythological* figure of Patagonia’s indigenous Aonikenk people. The character was associated with “the shadow of the death” that “kills with cold wind” in the Andes mountains, according to a study reporting the find in the nature journal Scientific Reports.
The second part, “macrothorax”, refers to the enormous size of the creature’s 1.2m wide chest cavity.
The newly identified monster measured 9m to 10m in length, larger than any previously discovered type of megaraptor – a group of flesh-eating giants that once roamed what is now South America, according to Dr Aranciaga’s team.
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 mountain range and glaciers that now define Patagonia emerged. The killer reptile had two sharp, curved claws per front paw, each talon 40cm long.
Dr Aranciaga had the good fortune of finding the first piece of Maip on his first-ever professional expedition* three years ago to Argentina’s Santa Cruz province.
This discovery led to months of very careful digging, cleaning and classifying a large cache of bones: vertebrae* as well as bits of rib, hip, tail and arm.
“When I lifted the vertebra and saw that it had the characteristics of a megaraptor, it was really a huge thrill,” Dr Aranciaga said. “Somehow I fulfilled my childhood dream … finding a new fossil and it turning out to be a megaraptor: the group in which I specialise.”
Maip was one of the last megaraptors to inhabit* Earth before the dinosaurs became extinct* about 66 million years ago, according to Dr Fernando Novas of the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences’ Laboratory of Comparative Anatomy*. It is also the southernmost megaraptor ever found, added Dr Aranciaga, a doctoral fellow at Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council.
This story was originally published by AFP and is reproduced with permission
- palaeontologists: scientists who study fossil to learn about the history of life on Earth
- apex-predator: predator at the top of the food chain
- megaraptor: large theropod of the Cretaceous Period
- mythological: relating to myths, legends, fables and
- expedition: journey undertaken for a reason
- vertebrae: series of interlocking bones that form the spinal column
- inhabit: to live somewhere, reside in a place
- extinct: species that have ceased to exist
- anatomy: structure of living things, parts making up the body
- How much did the Argentinian megaraptor weigh?
- What does the second part of its name refer to?
- How long did the Maip macrothorax measure in total length?
- How long ago did this massive meat-eater live?
- What did this apex predator eat?
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Draw a cartoon illustration of this megaraptor dinosaur. Surrounding the picture, write an appropriate name for this dinosaur and some facts about this gigantic creature that lived 70 million years ago.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity|
Curriculum Links: English; Visual Arts
Over a long period of time, a tropical rainforest turned into mountains and glaciers in South America. How do you think the landscape changed so much?
Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Geography; Critical and Creative Thinking
Stretch your sentence
Find a “who” in the cartoon – a person or an animal. Write it down.
Add three adjectives to describe them better.
Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?
Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.
Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.