Washington D.C, Jul 14 (ANI
): Turns out, Tyrannosaurus rex wasn't the only dinosaur that stalked prey with those itty-bitty arms in the Late Cretaceous.
A newly-discovered dinosaur from Patagonia has similar short, two-fingered claws, even though it's not closely related to the tyrannosaurs. Like Tyrannosaurus rex, the new Gualicho shinyae is a theropod, one of the two-legged, bird-like dinosaurs, but it's on a different branch of the family tree, meaning that the unusual limbs evolved independently rather than arising from a common short-armed ancestor.
"Gualicho is kind of a mosaic dinosaur, it has features that you normally see in different kinds of theropods," said corresponding author Peter Makovicky, adding "It's really unusual; it's different from the other carnivorous dinosaurs found in the same rock formation, and it doesn't fit neatly into any category."
Gualicho is an allosaurid, a branch of medium-to-large carnivorous theropod dinosaurs. The skeleton discovered is incomplete, but scientists estimate that it was a medium-sized predator weighing around a thousand pounds, comparable to a polar bear. It's very different from the other dinosaurs that lived near it; if anything, it looks most like Deltadromeus, a leggy, carnivorous dinosaur with slender arms found in Africa, which it appears to be closely related to.
Despite its large size, Gualicho's forelimbs were the size of a human child's, and like T. rex, it had just two digits (thumb and forefinger). While Gualicho doesn't explain why so many theropods had reduced forelimbs, it adds to evidence that the trait evolved independently numerous times.
"By learning more about how reduced forelimbs evolved, we may be able to figure out why they evolved," explained Makovicky.
The study is published in PLOS ONE. (ANI