New Meat-Eating Dino Found in Argentina

The meat-munching "Wall Raptor" featured a sickle-like claw at each thumb for snagging prey.

A new meat-eating dinosaur has just been discovered in Argentina, a country still known for its red meat.

Discovery of the new dinosaur, named Murusraptor barrosaensis, suggests that what is now Argentina has been dominated by carnivores for at least 80 million years. The dino is described in a paper published in the latest issue of the journal PLOS ONE.

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Argentina now has the world's second-highest consumption rate of beef per capita. (Hong Kong holds the top spot.)

Rodolfo Coria from the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas and Phillip Currie from the University of Alberta explained how they crafted the new dinosaur's scientific name.

"'Murus' is a Latin term for 'wall,' referring to the discovery of the specimen in the wall of a canyon; 'barrosaensis' alludes to Sierra Barrosa, the locality where it was collected," they wrote. Sierra Barrosa is an Upper Cretaceeous rock formation located at Neuquén Province, Patagonia.

They added that skeletons of turtles, crocodiles, mammals and other dinosaurs were also found at the site, along with the footprints of prehistoric birds.

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They estimate that meat-munching "Wall Raptor" was young when it died, but the well-preserved remains of the dinosaur indicate that it still grew to at least 21 feet.

The new dinosaur was not just any raptor, but a megaraptor, a term used to describe large, carnivorous two-legged dinosaurs from the Cretaceous. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of megaraptors was the 14-inch-long sickle-like claw on the thumb of each of their forelimbs. The dinosaur's other digits were clawed, too.

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Megaraptors also had a tail that was probably used for quick turns and to help with balance. The bones of these dinosaurs were air-filled and bird-like. Together, the features suggest that these dinos were extremely agile hunters.

Wall Raptor was related to Megaraptor, Orkoraptor, and Aerosteon -- a trio of formidable South American carnivorous dinosaurs. Similar meat-eating dinosaurs have also been unearthed in Australia and Japan.

There has been a long-standing debate concerning how megaraptors should be classified. Some paleontologists have argued that the ancestors of megaraptors descended from Allosaurus, a genus of big carnivorous dinosaurs that lived 155 to 150 million years ago during the Late Jurassic.

Others have argued that megaraptors are more closely related to Tyrannosaurus, another dinosaur genus that has T. rex as its star.

The authors of this new study take a neutral stance, but suggest an answer to the puzzle could come soon. They're hoping that more megaraptors will be found "in older rocks from both South America and Australia" to paint a clearer picture of the overall family tree for the toothy megaraptors.