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New giant carnivorous dinosaur reveals convergent evolutionary trends in theropod arm reduction


Canale, Juan et al. (2022), New giant carnivorous dinosaur reveals convergent evolutionary trends in theropod arm reduction, Dryad, Dataset,


Giant carnivorous dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex and abelisaurids are characterized by highly reduced forelimbs that stand in contrast to their huge dimensions, massive skulls, and obligate bipedalism.​ Another group that follows this pattern, yet is still poorly known, is the Carcharodontosauridae: dominant predators that inhabited most continents during the Early Cretaceous​​ and reached their largest sizes in Aptian-Cenomanian times.​ Despite many discoveries over the last three decades, aspects of their anatomy, especially with regard to the skull, forearm, and feet, remain poorly known. Here we report a new carcharodontosaurid, Meraxes gigas, gen. et sp. nov., based on a specimen recovered from the Upper Cretaceous Huincul Formation of northern Patagonia, Argentina. Phylogenetic analysis places Meraxes among derived Carcharodontosauridae, in a clade with other massive South American species. Meraxes preserves novel anatomical information for derived carcharodontosaurids, including an almost complete forelimb that provides evidence for convergent allometric trends in forelimb reduction among three lineages of large-bodied, megapredatory non-avian theropods, including a remarkable degree of parallelism between the latest-diverging tyrannosaurids and carcharodontosaurids. This trend, coupled with a likely lower bound on forelimb reduction, hypothesized to be about 0.4 forelimb/femur length, combined to produce this short-armed pattern in theropods. The almost complete cranium of Meraxes permits new estimates of skull length in Giganotosaurus, which is among the longest for theropods. Meraxes also provides further evidence that carchardontosaurids reached peak diversity shortly before their extinction with high rates of trait evolution in facial ornamentation possibly linked to a social signaling role.


This dataset comprises ages, morphological measurements, and phylogenetic relatedness of a large number of theropod dinosaurs. It includes scripts to process those data and output convergence metrics and analyses of rates of evolutionary change.


National Science Foundation, Award: FRES 1925884