A new short-armed dinosaur

It wasn’t just happening to Tyrannosaurus Rex. A new short-armed, yet giant-sized dinosaur was discovered by paleontologists. It lived about 93 million years ago in what is now northern Patagonia, Argentina. They tell it in the journal ‘Current Biology’. They called it Meraxes gigas.

“It’s a pattern that repeats itself in different types of carnivorous dinosaurs. There is a tendency. Body size increases, the head is bigger and the arms are shorter. We see that in tyrannosaurs, abelisaurids and others.” Juan Canale, from the Ernesto Bachmann Paleontological Museum in Neuquén, Argentina, explains.

A new short-armed dinosaur joins the family.
A new short-armed dinosaur joins the family.

Unknown function

“There is no direct relationship between the two dinosaurs,” they stress. Having tiny arms must have provided some sort of survival advantage.

“There is speculation that these arms were useless or vestigial, but we believe they had a function.” They served a purpose, but the question was to know what for.

It is not believed that they were useful for hunting. “They used the head, more than a meter in length,” they argued. “It is possible that they used them for reproductive behavior. For example, to hold onto the female during mating. Or to help each other get up after a rest or a fall,” he adds.

This fossil, the M. gigas, is named after a dragon from the popular “Game of Thrones” series. It was about 11 meters long and weighed more than four tons. “The environment in which it lived was very different from what we have today in Patagonia. Ninety-three million years ago it was very humid, very warm and with lots of vegetation.”

The dinosaur was found here, in Argentine Patagonia.
The dinosaur was found here, in Argentine Patagonia.

Sexual selection

The team also discovered that the skull of M. gigas was decorated with ridges, grooves, protuberances and small horns. They were probably useful for attracting potential mates. “Sexual selection is a powerful evolutionary force. But we can’t directly observe its behavior. It’s impossible to be certain about it,” acknowledges the paleontologist.

A new short-armed dinosaur is already among us. For the researcher, the finding is “one of the most exciting points of his career”. It appeared on the first day of the search. As it is in a very good state of preservation, the team hopes that it will offer more information in the future.

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