Argentine scientists found in the south of that country a new species of bipedal carnivorous dinosaur, named Llukalkan aliocranianus, a term that, in the language of the Mapuche Indians, means “the one who causes fear”. To live up to its name, the researchers say the creature was “probably among the main predators” of its time.
Described in an article published today (1st) in the scientific journal Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the dinosaur, about 80 million years old, had a strange skull, but which may have given it some special advantages over its “cousins” tyrannosaurs of the northern hemisphere.
This different skull was short and with rough bones, which gave the head of the dinosaur some protuberances and prominences like those found in some reptiles with current horns. The cranial conformation suggests, according to the article, that the species had a much better hearing than that of other abelisauros, and similar to the current crocodiles.
With a slightly stunted snout, but with sharp teeth and an “extremely powerful bite”, the Llukalkan was five meters long. Although much smaller than the world-famous Tyrannosaurus rex, which reached 12 meters, the newly discovered species had, in addition to hearing, an extremely keen sense of smell.
Why is this discovery important?
The study’s lead author, paleontologist Federico Gianechini said in a statement that the discovery is “particularly important” because it suggests an abundance of these abelissaurids, not just in Patagonia, in a period of dinosaur decay.
Abelissaurids were a dominant family of theropod dinosaurs (feet with three toes), ranging in size from five to nine meters, which lived in Patagonia and other areas of the supercontinent called Gondwana, which included Africa, India, Antarctica, Australia and South America .
The Llukalkan aliocranianus, whose fossil remains were found about 700 meters from the formation known as Bajo de la Carpa, in Argentina, near the La Invernada fossil deposit, would have coexisted with another abelisaurus also located in the same place: Viavenator exxoni, a braquirostrano that made possible the identification of the Furileusauria clade (group with common ancestor).
Without going into the details of the lifestyles of the two dinosaurs, Gianechini explains that both fossil traces suggest that these abelisauros were booming, which occurred just before the total extinction of the other dinosaurs. This leads to the belief that there may still be many other animals not yet found. “That is why we are still looking for other species”, concluded the paleontologist.