The 10 Most Important Dinosaurs of South America

01
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From Abelisaurus to Tyrannotitan, These Dinosaurs Ruled Mesozoic South America

giganotosaurus
Sergey Krasovskiy

The home of the very first dinosaurs, South America was blessed with a wide diversity of dinosaur life during the Mesozoic Era, including multi-ton theropods, gigantic sauropods, and a small scattering of smaller plant eaters. On the following slides, you'll learn about the 10 most important South American dinosaurs.

02
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Abelisaurus

abelisaurus
Sergey Krasovskiy

As is the case with many dinosaurs, the late Cretaceous Abelisaurus is less important in itself than in the name it has bestowed on an entire family of theropods: the abelisaurs, a predatory breed that also included the much bigger Carnotaurus (see slide #5) and Majungatholus. Named after Roberto Abel, who discovered its skull, Abelisaurus was described by the famous Argentinean paleontologist Jose F. Bonaparte. More about Abelisaurus 

03
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Anabisetia

anabisetia
Wikimedia Commons

No one is quite sure why, but very few ornithopods--the family of plant-eating dinosaurs characterized by their slender builds, grasping hands and bipedal postures--have been discovered in South America. Of those that have, Anabisetia (named after archaeologist Ana Biset) is the best-attested in the fossil record, and it seems to have been closely related to another "female" South American herbivore, Gasparinisaura. More about Anabisetia

04
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Argentinosaurus

argentinosaurus
BBC

Argentinosaurus may or may not have been the biggest dinosaur that ever lived--there's also a case to be made for Bruhathkayosaurus and Futalognkosaurus--but it's certainly the biggest one for which we have conclusive fossil evidence. Tantalizingly, the partial skeleton of this hundred-ton titanosaur was found in close proximity to the remains of Giganotosaurus, the T. Rex-sized terror of middle Cretaceous South America. See 10 Facts About Argentinosaurus

05
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Austroraptor

austroraptor
Nobu Tamura

The lithe, feathered, predatory dinosaurs known as raptors were mainly confined to late Cretaceous North America and Eurasia, but a few lucky genera managed to cross into the southern hemisphere. To date, Austroraptor is the largest raptor ever to be discovered in South America, weighing about 500 pounds and measuring over 15 feet from head to tail--still not quite a match for the biggest North American raptor, the almost one-ton Utahraptor. More about Austroraptor

06
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Carnotaurus

carnotaurus
Julio Lacerda

As apex predators go, Carnotaurus, the "meat-eating bull," was fairly small, weighing only about one-seventh as much as its contemporary North American cousin Tyrannosaurus Rex. What set this meat-eater apart from the pack were its unusually small, stubby arms (even by the standards of its fellow theropods) and the matching set of triangular horns above its eyes, the only known carnivorous dinosaur to be so adorned. See 10 Facts About Carnotaurus

07
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Eoraptor

eoraptor
Wikimedia Commons

Paleontologists aren't quite sure where to place Eoraptor on the dinosaur family tree; this ancient meat-eater of the middle Triassic period seems to have predated Herrerasaurus by a few million years, but may itself have been preceded by Staurikosaurus. Whatever the case, this "dawn thief" was one of the earliest dinosaurs, lacking the specialized features of the carnivorous and herbivorous genera that improved on its basic body plan. See 10 Facts About Eoraptor

08
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Giganotosaurus

giganotosaurus
Dmitry Bogdanov

By far the largest carnivorous dinosaur ever to be discovered in South America, Giganotosaurus outclassed even its North American cousin Tyrannosaurus Rex--and it was probably speedier as well (though, to judge by its unusually small brain, not quite as quick on the draw). There's some tantalizing evidence that packs of Giganotosaurus may have preyed on the truly gigantic titanosaur Argentinosaurus (see slide #2). See 10 Facts About Giganotosaurus

09
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Megaraptor

megaraptor
Wikimedia Commons

The impressively named Megaraptor wasn't a true raptor--and it wasn't even as big as the comparably named Gigantoraptor (and also, somewhat confusingly, not related to true raptors like Velociraptor and Deinonychus). Rather, this theropod was a close relative of both the North American Allosaurus and the Australian Australovenator, and thus has shed important light on the arrangement of the earth's continents during the middle to late Cretaceous period. More about Megaraptor

10
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Panphagia

panphagia
Nobu Tamura

Panphagia is Greek for "eats everything," and as one of the first prosauropods--the slender, two-legged ancestors of the giant sauropods of the later Mesozoic Era--that's what this 230-million-year-old dinosaur was all about. As far as paleontologists can tell, the prosauropods of the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods were omnivorous, supplementing their plant-based diets with occasional servings of small lizards, dinosaurs, and fish. More about Panphagia

11
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Tyrannotitan

tyrannotitan
Wikimedia Commons

Like another meat-eater on this list, Megaraptor (see slide #9), Tyrannotitan bears an impressive, and deceptive, name. The fact is that this multi-ton carnivore wasn't a true tyrannosaur--the family of dinosaurs culminating in the North American Tyrannosaurus Rex--but a "carcharodontosaurid" theropod closely related to both Giganotosaurus (see slide #8) and the northern African Carcharodontosaurus, the "great white shark lizard." More about Tyrannotitan