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‘Shadow of death’ beast the biggest megaraptor found to date

AFP, May 9, 2022 6:30PM Kids News

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A newly identified megaraptor dinosaur was the apex predator of southern Argentina 70 million years ago, measuring between 9m and 10m long, according to palaeontologist Dr Mauro Aranciaga, who participated in the dinosaur’s discovery. Picture: Juan Mabromata/AFP media_cameraA newly identified megaraptor dinosaur was the apex predator of southern Argentina 70 million years ago, measuring between 9m and 10m long, according to palaeontologist Dr Mauro Aranciaga, who participated in the dinosaur’s discovery. Picture: Juan Mabromata/AFP

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Argentinian palaeontologists* have found an apex-predator* dinosaur that measured a monstrous three storeys from nose to tail and tore strips off its prey with sharp, curved claws.

The six-tonne giant, the largest megaraptor* unearthed to date, fed on smaller dinosaurs that it ripped to shreds with its talons* before digging into their intestines.

Palaeontologist Dr Mauro Aranciaga said the dino would have been the “apex predator” of its time – and well deserving of its chilling scientific name Maip macrothorax.

media_cameraFossilised cervical vertebra of the monstrous Maip macrothorax, the newly identified megaraptor dinosaur that inhabited the Argentinian Patagonia 70 million years ago. Picture: Juan Mabromata/AFP)

The first part, “Maip”, comes from an “evil” mythological* figure of Patagonia’s indigenous Aonikenk people. The character was associated with “the shadow of the death” that “kills with cold wind” in the Andes mountains, ­according to a study reporting the find in the ­nature journal Scientific Reports.

The second part, “macrothorax”, refers to the enormous size of the creature’s 1.2m wide chest cavity.

Maip macrothorax illustration by Agustín Ozán. media_cameraImagine a three-storey building on its side and you have the approximate length of Argentina’s Maip macrothorax from nose to tail, as seen here in an illustration by Agustín Ozán. Picture: supplied

The newly identified monster measured 9m to 10m in length, larger than any previously discovered type of megaraptor – a group of flesh-eating giants that once roamed what is now South America, according to Dr Aranciaga’s team.

It lived about 70 million years ago towards the end of the Cretaceous Period in what was then a tropical forest, long before the Andes mountain range and glaciers that now define Patagonia emerged. The killer reptile had two sharp, curved claws per front paw, each talon 40cm long.

media_cameraArgentine palaeontologist Fernando Novas holds a fossilised vertebra of Maip macrothorax, the newly identified megaraptor dinosaur that inhabited the Argentinian Patagonian, at the Bernardino Rivadavia Argentine Museum of Natural Science in Buenos Aires on May 2. Picture: Juan Mabromata/AFP

Dr Aranciaga had the good fortune of finding the first piece of Maip on his first-ever professional expedition* three years ago to ­Argentina’s Santa Cruz province.

This discovery led to months of very careful digging, cleaning and classifying a large cache of bones: vertebrae* as well as bits of rib, hip, tail and arm.

“When I lifted the vertebra and saw that it had the characteristics of a megaraptor, it was really a huge thrill,” Dr Aranciaga said. “Somehow I fulfilled my childhood dream … finding a new fossil and it turning out to be a megaraptor: the group in which I specialise.”

media_cameraArgentine palaeontologists Dr Mauro Aranciaga, left, and Dr Fernando Novas, who announced the discovery of an apex predator dinosaur that ripped into its prey with sharp, curved claws. Picture: Juan Mabromata/AFP

Maip was one of the last megaraptors to inhabit* Earth before the dinosaurs became extinct* about 66 million years ago, according to Dr Fernando Novas of the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences’ Laboratory of Comparative Anatomy*. It is also the southernmost megaraptor ever found, added Dr Aranciaga, a doctoral fellow at ­Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council.

This story was originally published by AFP and is reproduced with permission

GLOSSARY

  • palaeontologists: scientists who study fossil to learn about the history of life on Earth
  • apex-predator: predator at the top of the food chain
  • megaraptor: large theropod of the Cretaceous Period
  • mythological: relating to myths, legends, fables and
  • expedition: journey undertaken for a reason
  • vertebrae: series of interlocking bones that form the spinal column
  • inhabit: to live somewhere, reside in a place
  • extinct: species that have ceased to exist
  • anatomy: structure of living things, parts making up the body

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How much did the Argentinian megaraptor weigh?
  2. What does the second part of its name refer to?
  3. How long did the Maip macrothorax measure in total length?
  4. How long ago did this massive meat-eater live?
  5. What did this apex predator eat?

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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Cartoon
Draw a cartoon illustration of this megaraptor dinosaur. Surrounding the picture, write an appropriate name for this dinosaur and some facts about this gigantic creature that lived 70 million years ago.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity|
Curriculum Links: English; Visual Arts

2. Extension
Over a long period of time, a tropical rainforest turned into mountains and glaciers in South America. How do you think the landscape changed so much?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Geography; Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Stretch your sentence
Find a “who” in the cartoon – a person or an animal. Write it down.

Add three adjectives to describe them better.

Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?

Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.

Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.

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