WASHINGTON — Scientists in Argentina have unearthed the well-preserved skull of a meat-eating dinosaur that roamed northern Patagonia about 85 million years ago – a beast with a short snout, keen hearing and stout bite strength that made it a daunting predator.
The dinosaur, named Llukalkan aliocranianus, measured roughly 16 feet (5 meters) long and was a member of a carnivorous group called abelisaurids that prospered in South America and other parts of Earth’s Southern Hemisphere during the Cretaceous Period, researchers said on Tuesday.
Llukalkan, meaning “one who causes fear” in the local native Mapuche language, may have competed directly against a cousin that was equally impressive and slightly larger. Only about 700 yards (meters) away from where Llukalkan’s fossilized skull was found, scientists previously had dug up the remains of another meat-eating dinosaur called Viavenator exxoni.
Both were abelisaurids, a group of two-legged predators with short skulls, sharp and serrated teeth, extremely short arms with tiny fingers and heads sometimes featuring unusual ridges and small horns. Abelisaurids generally were medium-sized compared to huge carnivorous dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex, which lived in North America approximately 15 million years after Llukalkan, and Giganotosaurus, which lived in Patagonia about 15 million years before Llukalkan.