A new, gigantic dinosaur species has been discovered by an international team of paleontologists in Argentina, according to a study published this week.
Dubbed Meraxes gigas, the 9,000-pound, 36 to 39-foot long meat-eating dinosaur is believed to have walked the Earth about 90 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period. Meraxes had short arms and a huge skull – similar to the Tyrannosaurus rex.
In their research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Biology on Thursday, the paleontologists noted that Meraxes’ big skull and and small arms in particular provide key clues about the evolution of these kinds of prehistoric predators – specifically how they hunted all those years. ago.
Meraxes is a member of the carcharodontosauridae family, a group of giant, carnivorous theropod dinosaurs. While the Meraxes looks similar to the T. Rex, the two are not closely related – meaning they both developed their small arms and big skulls independently of one another.
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Researchers have realized that this is a trend for numerous bipedal, meat-eating dinosaurs across three dinosaur families, Peter Makovicky, one of the authors for Thursday’s study and University of Minnesota paleontologist, told USA TODAY.
“Ever since the discovery of T. Rex in 1902, people have sort of scratched their heads about, ‘Why would an animal so large have such tiny arms? Were they useful?'” Makovicky said. “There’s an alternative viewpoint, which is maybe the arms are actually getting shorter as a result of some other part of the body being … optimized. And generally, people have suggested the skull obviously, because the skull is so big.”
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