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Dino Spotlight: Giganotosaurus

Weighing in at up to 13 tons...
Over 12 metres long...
Jaws full of serrated, sharp teeth...
It's Giganotosaurus, the giant of Argentina!

There's been quite a fuss about this dinosaur, especially because it's said to be bigger than Tyrannosaurus rex, the original giant theropod. But what else do we know about it?

The first fossil of this dinosaur was found fairly recently, in 1993, by amateur fossil hunter Rubén Dario Carolini, in Patagonia. Named Giganotosaurus carolinii, its name means "giant southern lizard of Carolini."

It lived in the Late Cretaceous period, nearly 100 million years ago—a latecomer all in all, but one of the earlier dinosaurs of that era. For comparison, the Tyrannosaurus rex was one of the last non-avian dinosaurs to appear, a little less than 70 million years ago.

Paleontologists think that it would have been the top predator in its environment, owing to its large size. Fossils of giant sauropods like Andesaurus were found next to Giganotosaurus fossils, suggesting that it may have been able to take on titanosaurs of equal weight to itself.

Its bite was not nearly as strong as that of a T. rex, though; it may have used its lower jaw to inflict slicing wounds on its prey, as opposed to crushing like a tiger or tearing like a crocodile. It had a fabulous set of chompers that were uniquely suited to this task: more than 60 knife-shaped, serrated teeth could be found in an adult's huge maw at any given time.

Giganotosaurus was part of the family of theropods called carcharodontosaurs, or "shark-toothed reptiles," one of the two groups of massive predators that dominated the southern continents that once made up Gondwana. This group is named after Carcharodontosaurus, a related dinosaur from the Sahara of Africa.

The other group is the spinosaurs, composed of such titans as Spinosaurus from North Africa and Irritator from Brazil. Spinosaurs preferred dining on the huge fish of the shallow Cretaceous seas.

The Giganotosaurus was a huge predator that pushed the size limits of carnivorous dinosaurs, and since its discovery has been a source of wonder and awe, as well as a representation of how diverse the world was during the dinosaur age.

Check out this featured creature in our Ultimate Dinosaurs exhibition, running from May 30 to September 7, 2015!