Remains of huge ‘megaraptor’ with scythe-like claws uncovered in Argentina

15 May 2020

One of the researchers working at the remains of the newly discovered megaraptor species. Image: Ctys-Unlam

Researchers in Argentina have uncovered the fossilised remains of a lethal ‘megaraptor’ species more agile than the T-rex.

Argentina has once again proven itself to be a hotbed of palaeontological activity after a team of researchers from the Museo Argentino Ciencias Naturales (MACN) announced a major discovery. Remains of a large carnivorous dinosaur – referred to as a ‘megaraptor’ that dates back 70m years ago – were found in the southern province of Santa Cruz.

Vertebrae, ribs and part of what would be the chest and shoulder girdle of this specimen were recovered, appearing to show it to be a newly discovered species. It is also a more modern species of megaraptor as previous discoveries were millions of years older.

Megaraptors were large, predatory dinosaurs that thrived and diversified during the Cretaceous period, primarily in the southern hemisphere, until the mass extinction event 65m years ago.

Speaking to a scientific agency at the Universidad Nacional de La Matanza, palaeontologist Mauro Aranciaga Rolando described this latest discovery as a “very large specimen”, measuring approximately 10 metres long with adaptations for hunting that were “really spectacular”.

40cm claws

“Unlike the T- rex, the megaraptors were slimmer animals, more prepared for the race, with long tails that allowed them to maintain balance,” he said. “At the same time, they had muscular legs, but [were] elongated to be able to take long steps,” he said.

Several characteristics of the creature made it particularly lethal, with its main weapons being its extremely long and muscular arms, which had scythe-like claws. These claws could reach 40cm in length and, Rolando said, could inflict “deep hurts” against its prey.

It’s believed that speed was key for the survival of megaraptors as they primarily lived off nimble herbivorous dinosaurs that were a little bit smaller, measuring between five and six metres in length. MACN’s Sebastián Rozadilla said these herbivorous dinosaurs lived in large groups and roamed large areas of land, “similarly to the way gazelles or antelopes do today in the African savannah”.

In February, another MACN team announced the discovery of a distant T-rex relative named ‘thunder reptile’ in the plains of Patagonia.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic