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Argentina: Scientists discover giant dinosaur 'Meraxes'

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Brussels, Jul 8: Paleontologists said they had discovered a new apex predator with a massive head and little arms, like those of a Tyrannosaurus rex, in an article published Thursday.

The findings were published in the journal Current Biology and suggest that the small front limbs were not an accident of evolution but rather helped the creatures' survival in their era.

Argentina: Scientists discover giant dinosaur Meraxes

The creature, named Meraxes gigas after a fictional dragon in the Game of Thrones books, was excavated over four years of field expeditions in northern Patagonia, Argentina. The skull was first found in 2012.

"We won the lottery and found it literally on the first morning," Peter Makovicky from the University of Minnesota told AFP.

What did the team of paleontologists uncover?

The dinosaur's fossilized remains were well preserved, with the skeleton approximately 36 feet long (11 meters long). The skull alone was more than four feet long at 127 centimetres.

Researchers believe Meraxes gigas weighed four metric tons. Its arms, however, were only about two feet long.

Researchers believe the newly discovered dinosaur would have been extinct 20 million years prior to Tyrannosaurus rex.

Argentina: Scientists discover giant dinosaur Meraxes

"It certainly would have looked very imposing and gargoyle like," Makovicky noted.

Why the short arms?

Juan Canale, the project lead at Ernesto Bachmann Paleontological Museum in Neuquen, Argentina and a co-author of the Thursday publication, believes the tiny arms may have played a role in reproduction.

"They may have used the arms for reproductive behavior such as holding the female during mating or support themselves to stand back up after a break or a fall," Canale said.

Makovicky said the newly discovered species would have lived on earth between 90 to 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. At that time, the Patagonian region was damper, more forested and closer to the coast.

Meraxes gigas would have preyed on the sauropod dinosaurs, which had long tails and necks and small heads. Some sauropod remains were also discovered at the excavation site.

Source: DW

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