New dinosaur named ‘one who causes fear’ discovered in Patagonia


An artist’s impression of ‘Llukalkan aliocranianus’, a new dinosaur discovered in Argentina. (Credit: Jorge Blanco and Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology)

Scientists have discovered a T-Rex-like dinosaur that roamed the Patagonia region of what is now Argentina around 80 million years ago.

Called the ‘Llukalkan aliocranianus’ or ‘the one who causes fear,’ this dinosaur was a formidable meat-eating predator. 

It’s large body stretched up to 5m (16ft) in length, and it had very sharp teeth, a powerful bite, huge claws, powerful hind legs and a keen sense of smell. It had short, stubby arms just like fellow fearsome predator, the T-Rex.

The new dinosaur also had a strange, short skull, which scientists think gave its head similar features to some types of iguanas. It gets part of its name (‘aliocranianus’) from its weird head. 

‘Llukalkan’ means ‘the one who causes fear’ in the language of the indigenous Mapuche people, who live throughout Patagonia.

Llukalkan is one of 10 known members of the ‘abelisaurids’ family of dinosaurs that thrived across southern continents. These dinosaurs were generally large, at around 5-9m (16-29ft) in length. 

They had stubby arms like a T-Rex, but unusual short, deep skulls. Their skulls often had horns, bumps, crests and other unique features.

Scientists modelled the new dinosaur’s skull using fossilised remains.

Llukalkan was discovered just 700m (0.4 miles) from the fossilised remains of another abelisaurid called ‘Viavenator exxoni’ in the ‘Bajo de la Carpa Formation.’ Several dinosaurs have been found over the years in this mostly sandstone formation.

Both Llukalkan and Viavenator lived just a few million years before dinosaurs went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period around 65 million years ago.

Dr Frederico Gianechini, a paleontologist at the National University of San Luis in Argentina, said: ‘This is a particularly important discovery because it suggests that the diversity and abundance of abelisaurids were remarkable, not only across Patagonia, but also in more local areas during the dinosaurs’ twilight period.’

Dr Gianechini and his colleagues reported their find in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology earlier this week.

Researchers think this new dinosaur had better hearing than its relatives. They spotted a small pocket of air in its middle ear zone which hasn’t been found in other abelisaurids. This may have given it similar hearing to a modern-day crocodile.

Dr Gianechini and his colleagues will now continue their hunt for more members of this dinosaur family.

He said: ‘This discovery suggests that there are likely more abelisaurid out there that we just haven’t found yet, so we will be looking for other new species.’


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