Megaraptor ("giant thief") is a genus of large theropod dinosaur that lived in the Turonian to Coniacian ages of the Late Cretaceous. Its fossils have been discovered in the Patagonian Portezuelo Formation of Argentina. Initially thought to have been a giant dromaeosaur-like coelurosaur, it was classified as a neovenatorid allosauroid in previous phylogenies, but more recent phylogeny and discoveries of related megaraptoran genera has placed it as either a basal tyrannosauroid or a basal coelurosaur.
Megaraptor was initially described as a giant dromaeosaur, known primarily from a single claw (about 37 cm long) that resembled the sickle-shaped foot claw of dromaeosaurids. The discovery of a complete front limb, however, showed that this giant claw actually came from the first finger of the hand. In 2010, Gregory S. Paul estimated its length at 8 metres (26 ft), its weight at 1 tonne (2,200 lb). The hands were unusually elongated, bearing sickle-shaped claws even more recurved than those of spinosaurids.
The hand is quite distinct from other basal tetanurans, so it was not initially clear whether Megaraptor was an allosaurid, a carcharodontosaurid, a spinosauroid, or something else entirely. Subsequent studies, as well as the identification of close relatives with similar large claws on the forelimbs (see below), helped identify Megaraptor as a highly advanced and lightly built allosauroid, and a member of the family Neovenatoridae. More recent studies have proposed that Megaraptor and its kin are actually tyrannosauroids or spinosauroids as opposed to allosauroids. A juvenile specimen described in 2014 has provided more evidence towards Megaraptor being a primitive tyrannosauroid. The discovery of Gualicho indicates that Megaraptor may not be a tyrannosauroid, but either an allosauroid or basal coelurosaur.
When first discovered and prior to publication, the spinosaurid Baryonyx was also reported to be a dromaeosaurid, and the allosauroid Chilantaisaurus was reported to be a possible spinosaurid, both based on the large hand claws.
The cladogram shown below follows an analysis by Porfiri et al., 2014.
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- F. E. Novas; F. L. Agnolín; M. D. Ezcurra; J. I. Canale; J. D. Porfiri (2012). "Megaraptorans as members of an unexpected evolutionary radiation of tyrant-reptiles in Gondwana". Ameghiniana. 49 (Suppl): R33.
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- Porfiri, J. D., Novas, F. E., Calvo, J. O., Agnolín, F. L., Ezcurra, M. D. & Cerda, I. A.; Novas; Calvo; Agnolín; Ezcurra; Cerda (2014). "Juvenile specimen of Megaraptor (Dinosauria, Theropoda) sheds light about tyrannosauroid radiation". Cretaceous Research. 51: 35–55. doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2014.04.007.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Apesteguía, Sebastián; Smith, Nathan D.; Juárez Valieri, Rubén; Makovicky, Peter J. (2016). "An Unusual New Theropod with a Didactyl Manus from the Upper Cretaceous of Patagonia, Argentina". PLOS ONE. 11 (7): e0157793. Bibcode:2016PLoSO..1157793A. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0157793. PMC 4943716. PMID 27410683.
- Juan D. Porfiri; Fernando E. Novas; Jorge O. Calvo; Federico L. Agnolín; Martín D. Ezcurra; Ignacio A. Cerda (2014). "Juvenile specimen of Megaraptor (Dinosauria, Theropoda) sheds light about tyrannosauroid radiation". Cretaceous Research. 51: 35–55. doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2014.04.007.
- Science Daily