Paleontologists have discovered a new dinosaur species in Argentina, dubbing it “Llukalkan aliocranianus.” Llukalkan means “the one who causes fear” in the Mapuche language, and “aliocranianus” is Latin for “unusual skull.”
The dinosaur’s remains were found in the Bajo de la Carpa Formation, a body of rock that spans Argentina’s Río Negro and Neuquén provinces, and the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology published details of its unearthing on Wednesday.
The creature, which existed around 80 million years ago, belonged to the abelisaurids family, a group of carnivorous apex predators most prominent during the Cretaceous period and similar to the famous Tyrannosaurus rex, with tiny arms and large hind legs.
These dinosaurs’ skulls were unusual, however, and had crests, horns and other protuberances. The bumps on Llukalkan aliocranianus’ head were likely similar to those of an iguana or Gila monster.
Analysis of the dinosaur’s fossilized skull also revealed that it may have had a greater sense of hearing than most abelisaurids.
“A peculiarity of this dinosaur is that it has cavities in the ear area that other abelisaurids did not have, which could have given this species different auditory capacities, possibly a greater hearing range,” Federico Gianechini, a paleontologist at the National University of San Luis, Argentina, and one of the lead authors of the study, told CNN. “This, together with its keen sense of smell, would have given great capabilities as a predator to this species.”
The creature’s remains were only 700 meters away from those of another abelisaurid known as Viavenator exxoni that were discovered in 2016. A study of abelisaurid fossils shows they were still flourishing right before dinosaurs went extinct.
“These dinosaurs were still trying out new evolutionary pathways and rapidly diversifying right before they died out completely,” said study co-author Dr. Ariel Méndez of the Patagonian Institute of Geology and Palaeontology in a press release.