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Discovery provides insight into the evolution and anatomy of large carnivorous dinosaurs – ScienceDaily


A team led by University of Minnesota Twin Cities researcher Peter Makavitskyi and Argentinian colleagues Juan Canale and Sebastian Apestguia has discovered a huge new meat-eating dinosaur named Meraxes gigas. The new dinosaur provides clues about the evolution and biology of dinosaurs such as Carcharodontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex – in particular, why these animals have such large skulls and tiny hands.

The study was published in Modern biologya peer-reviewed journal of scientific biology.

The researchers initially discovered Merax in Patagonia in 2012 and have spent the last few years collecting, preparing and analyzing the sample. The dinosaur is part of the family Carcharodontosauridae, a group of giant carnivorous theropods that also includes Giganotosaurusone of the largest known carnivorous dinosaurs and one of the reptilian stars of the recently released Jurassic World: Dominion.

Although not the largest of carcharodontosaurids, Merax was still a huge animal measuring about 36 feet from snout to tip of tail and weighing about 9,000 pounds. The researchers recovered Merax from rocks that are about 90-95 million years old, along with other dinosaurs, including several long-necked sauropods.

Merax is one of the most complete carcharodontosaurid skeletons found by paleontologists in the Southern Hemisphere, and includes nearly the entire animal’s skull, pelvis, left and right arms, and legs.

“What’s interesting is that we found that the body plan is remarkably similar to tyrannosaurs T. rex,” said Peter Makavitsky, one of the study’s lead authors and a professor at the University of Minnesota’s NG Winchell School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. “But they are not particularly closely related to T. rex. They are from very different branches of the meat-eating dinosaur family tree. So this new discovery allowed us to investigate the question, “Why did these meat-eating dinosaurs get so big and have such small hands?”

“The discovery of this new carcharodontosaurid, the most complete to date, gives us a great opportunity to learn about their taxonomy, paleobiology and true size like never before,” said Sebastian Apestegio, co-author of the study and a researcher at Maimonides University in Argentina.

With such statistics Merax however, the researchers found that the large, mega-predatory dinosaurs in all three theropod families grew similarly. As they evolved, their skulls got bigger and their hands got smaller.

Possible use of tiny forelimbs in T. rex and other large carnivorous dinosaurs have been the subject of much speculation and debate.

“We’re suggesting there’s another way to look at it,” Makowiecki said. “We shouldn’t worry so much about what the weapons are used for, because the weapons actually shrink as a result of the skulls becoming massive. Regardless of what the weapons were used for or not, they take on a secondary function as the skull is optimized to handle larger prey.”

The researchers also found that carcharodontosaurids, including species from Patagonia, evolved very quickly but soon disappeared from the fossil record.

“Usually, when animals are on the verge of extinction, it’s because their evolution is quite slow, meaning they don’t adapt very quickly to their environment,” explained Juan Canale, lead author of the study and researcher at the National University of Rio de Janeiro. Negro. “Here, we have proof of this Merax and its relatives evolved quite rapidly, but within a few million years of existence they disappeared, and we do not know why. It’s one of those finds where you answer some questions, but it creates more questions for the future.”

The research was funded by the National Geographic Society, the Municipality of Villa El Chacon, the Félix de Azar Foundation, and the Field Museum of Chicago.

In addition to Makovicky, Apesteguía and Canale, the research team included the National University of Rio Negro researcher Alejandro Jaluza; Maimonides University researcher Pablo Galina; West Virginia Institute of Technology Associate Professor Jonathan Mitchell; Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County researcher Nathan Smith; Carleton University researchers Thomas Cullen; Akiko Shinya of the Field Museum in Chicago; and Federico Gianchini, a researcher at the National University of San Luis.

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