(ORDO NEWS) — Argentine paleontologists have announced the discovery of a carnivorous dinosaur that reached three stories from nose to tail and hacked at its prey with sharp, curved claws.
The six-ton giant, the largest megaraptor discovered to date, fed on smaller dinosaurs, which it tore to shreds with its claws and then dug into their intestines, paleontologist Mauro Aranchaga.
According to Aranchaga, he would have been the “apex predator” of his time and well deserved his chilling scientific name Maip macrothorax.
The first part of the name, “Maip”, comes from the “evil” mythological figure of the indigenous people of Patagonia – the Aonikenks.
The character has been associated with the “shadow of death” that “kills with the cold wind” in the Andes mountains, according to a study about the find published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The second part, the macrothorax, refers to the huge volume of the creature’s chest cavity about 1.2 meters (3.9 ft) wide.
According to Aranciaga’s team, the newly identified monster was between 9 and 10 meters (33 feet) long, longer than any previously discovered species of megaraptor, a group of carnivorous giants that once roamed what is now South America.
It lived about 70 million years ago in the late Cretaceous period in the rainforest, long before the Andes mountain range and glaciers that define Patagonia today.
The killer reptile had two sharp, curved claws on its front paw, each claw being about 40 centimeters (15.7 inches) long.
Aranciaga, now 29, was lucky enough to find the first Maip fragment during his first professional expedition three years ago in the Argentinean province of Santa Cruz.
This led to months of painstaking excavation, cleaning and classification of a large cache of bones: vertebrae, as well as pieces of ribs, thighs, tails and arms.
“When I lifted the vertebrae and saw that it had the signs of a megaraptor, it was really a huge delight,” recalls Aranchaga.
“Somehow I fulfilled my childhood dream… found a new fossil and it turned out to be a megaraptor – a group that I specialize in.”
According to Fernando Novas of the Comparative Anatomy Laboratory of the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences, Maip was one of the last megaraptors to live on Earth before the dinosaurs died out about 66 million years ago.
It’s also the most southerly megaraptor ever found, added Aranchaga, a doctoral student at Argentina’s National Council for Scientific and Technical Research.
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