An Ultimate Guide to Mapusaurus: The Earth Lizard

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Name Meaning“Earth Lizard”Height3-4.2 meters (10-14 feet)
PronunciationMah-puh-sore-usLength11–12.2 meters (36-40 feet)
EraMesozoicLate CretaceousWeight5 metric ton (11,023 lbs)
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ Saurischia & TheropodaLocationArgentina (South America)

Mapusaurus Pictures

3D illustration of Mapusaurus
3D illustration of Mapusaurus | MR1805 via iStock

The Mapusaurus

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Mapusaurus Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Mapusaurus Concept

Although millions of the Earth’s most fascinating creatures went extinct or adapted long before the evolution of humans, there have been fossil discoveries of many of these extinct creatures over the years.

One such animal is the Mapusaurus, the “Earth Lizard.”

This gigantic carnivore belongs to the theropod family of dinosaurs and, in its time, ruled the ancient landscapes of South America.

This creature’s name is derived from two languages, Mapuche, indigenous to Patagonia in Argentina, and Greek.

The first part of the name Mapu means “of the land” or “of the Earth,” while the latter means “lizard” in Greek.

Mapusaurus from the Cretaceous era 3D illustration
Mapusaurus from the Cretaceous era 3D illustration | Warpaintcobra via iStock

To fully understand the Mapusaurus and its world, paleontologists have pieced together fragmentary evidence found in the fossil record.

This creature’s fossils have revealed information about its anatomy, locomotion, feeding habits, and more.

Through a careful analysis of these findings, researchers have attempted to reconstruct the life and times of the Mapusaurus, shedding light on its place in the ancient ecosystems of South America and its interactions with other species.

Keep reading this article to discover more about this enormous dinosaur, its time on Earth, and other intriguing facts.

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Physical Characteristics

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Mapusaurus Size Comparison Chart
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Mapusaurus Size Comparison Chart

The Mapusaurus lived approximately 100 to 95 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.

This dinosaur was ginormous, weighing between three and five tons (6,000-10,000 pounds) and reaching lengths of over 40 feet.

Its skull was elongated and narrow, like that of other theropods, measuring around four feet.

It consisted of numerous bones intricately fused to provide strength and stability, allowing the dinosaur to handle the immense forces exerted during feeding and combat.

The size of its eye sockets also suggests that the dinosaur had excellent vision, which would have aided in tracking movement, assessing distance, and identifying potential threats or prey.

Skull reconstruction of the Cenomanian Carcharodontosaur Mapusaurus roseae
Skull reconstruction of the Cenomanian Carcharodontosaur Mapusaurus roseae | Ornitholestes via License

The Mapusaurus’ snout was elongated and tapered, with an array of teeth suited for its predatory lifestyle.

Its teeth were curved, blade-like, and serrated, allowing it to inflict devastating wounds on its victims; they were also large and helped the dinosaur deliver bone-crushing bites.

The robust jaw of the Mapusaurus was fitted with muscles that allowed it to produce an incredible amount of biting force.

The biting force of Mapusaurus, equivalent to that of current crocodiles, was estimated to be well over 3,000 psi, according to an analysis of fossilized skull specimens.

A Mapusaurus reconstructed skull - Neloadino
A Mapusaurus reconstructed skull | Neloadino via License

Like some other theropod dinosaurs, the forelimbs of the Mapusaurus were relatively smaller than its body.

However, these forelimbs had powerful muscles and bones that helped the dinosaur with the strength and agility necessary for hunting and feeding.

The forelimbs ended in sharp, clawed fingers, which could have been used to hold and immobilize prey.

The hindlimbs of the Mapusaurus were particularly impressive, contributing to its exceptional speed and agility.

The Mapusaurus was a bipedal dinosaur, and its hindlimbs played a critical role in locomotion, allowing the dinosaur to achieve impressive running speeds.

It could travel quickly across the landscape because of its thigh and calf muscles and extended bones.

The lower leg bones were strong and well-adapted for weight-bearing, and the femur was noticeably lengthy, providing longer strides.

Habitat and Distribution

As mentioned, Mapusaurus existed in the Late Cretaceous period, approximately 100 to 95 million years ago.

At the time of its existence, the dinosaur inhabited and dominated what is now modern-day Argentina, specifically within the Huincul Formation of the Neuquén Basin.

This region, located in the Patagonian area of South America, offers valuable insights into the dinosaurian ecosystems of the Late Cretaceous.

The environment in which Mapusaurus lived was characterized by vast floodplains, meandering rivers, and lush vegetation, making it an ideal habitat for diverse organisms.

This dinosaur’s fossils were first discovered between 1997 and 2001 at Cañadón del Gato, and the species was named by paleontologists Rodolfo Coria and Phil Currie in 2006.

Based on the current fossil records, the distribution of Mapusaurus appears to be restricted to the Huincul Formation in Argentina.

This formation has yielded numerous fossil specimens, including partial and nearly complete skeletons of Mapusaurus.

3D illustration with a volcano and Mapusaurus
3D illustration with a volcano and Mapusaurus | MR1805 via iStock

However, the dinosaur’s distribution might be broader than currently known, as paleontological exploration and discoveries continue to shed light on prehistoric ecosystems worldwide.

The Huincul Formation, where Mapusaurus thrived, offers a glimpse into the ancient ecosystems of the Late Cretaceous in South America.

During this time, the region had a warmer climate and supported different animals and plants.

In addition to Mapusaurus, the Huincul Formation reveals a diverse range of dinosaur species, including other carnivores such as Giganotosaurus, and herbivorous dinosaurs, like the Argentinosaurus and others.

Mapusaurus confronts a herd of Argentinosaurus - MR1805 via Istock
Mapusaurus confronts a herd of Argentinosaurus | MR1805 via iStock

These dinosaurs coexisted in the same area, indicating niche partitioning, where different species adapted to distinct food preferences or hunting techniques.

The distribution and quantity of other big predators throughout the environment may have been affected by the Mapusaurus’ potential competition with them for food supplies.

Behavior and Diet

Like some of its other close relatives, the Mapusaurus is believed to have exhibited pack-hunting behavior.

Fossil evidence suggests that these dinosaurs hunted in coordinated groups, leveraging their size and strength to bring down larger prey.

The presence of multiple individuals within the same geological formations suggests that they may have roamed and hunted in packs, displaying social behavior uncommon among most theropods.

Silhouette of mapusaurus orange sky scenery collection stock
Mapusaurus were believe to have hunted in packs | kongvector via iStock

As a member of the carcharodontosaurids, Mapusaurus was a carnivore with a diet predominantly consisting of other dinosaurs.

It primarily preyed on herbivorous dinosaurs like Argentinosaurus and Andesaurus.

The pack hunting strategy of Mapusaurus allowed them to overpower and bring down such large herbivores, making them apex predators of their ecosystem.

It is believed that Mapusaurus relied on their powerful jaws and serrated teeth to tear through the flesh and bones of their prey.

Their long and sharp teeth were well-suited for inflicting severe injuries, while their robust build and strong limbs allowed them to withstand the immense forces exerted during hunts.

Mapusaurus' teeth were built for destruction
Mapusaurus’ teeth were built for destruction | MR1805 via iStock

Experts also believe the pack likely took turns feeding on their prey, ensuring there was enough to go around the pack.

Life Cycle

As mentioned, the Mapusaurus was first discovered in the late 1990s and is named after the Mapuche people and the Mapocho River.

Paleontologists believe that Mapusaurus existed in the Late Cretaceous around 100 million years ago, and because of how recently it was discovered, it constitutes a new species within the Carcharodontosauridae family.

Like other theropods and dinosaurs in general, the Mapusaurus’ life cycle started with the hatching of its young.

These hatchlings were tiny and relied on parental care and protection during this stage.

Between the hatchling and juvenile stages, Mapusaurus likely experienced a growth spurt, with their skeletal structure changing to accommodate their increasing weight.

Also, at this juvenile stage, the young dinosaur could hunt alone, feeding on smaller animals.

A young Mapusaurus in the jungle on the prowl
A young Mapusaurus in the jungle on the prowl | MR1805 via iStock

Also, Mapusaurus individuals were primarily solitary during the juvenile stage but became more social as their age progressed.

As these individuals reached adulthood, they became imposing giants of the Late Cretaceous ecosystem.

As apex predators, adult Mapusaurus likely targeted enormous herbivorous dinosaurs like Argentinosaurus, utilizing their sharp teeth and powerful jaws to tear flesh and consume their prey.

These dinosaurs played a significant role in their ecosystem by regulating herbivore populations.

Also, their social behavior and cooperative hunting strategies likely contributed to their success in bringing down large prey, enhancing their survival and reproductive success.

Evolution and History

2 Mapusaurus skulls
2 Mapusaurus skulls | Kabacchi via License

The Mapusaurus was first discovered in the early 1990s in the famous Huincul Formation of Argentina.

The remains were found near another enormous theropod dinosaur, Giganotosaurus, suggesting they lived alongside each other.

Another evidence of their close relations is that both dinosaurs belong to the family Carcharodontosauridae, which includes another theropod called the Carcharodontosaurus.

As a group, theropods are famous for their bipedal stance, with strong hind limbs and often short, vestigial forelimbs, and their carnivorous diet.

Although sharing its home with two other dinosaurs from the same order, the Mapusaurus was quite distinct from them.

For instance, the Giganotosaurus weighed more than the Mapusaurus, as it was the largest theropod ever discovered.

The Carcharodontosaurus was also closer to the Giganotosaurus in size, making it larger than the Mapusaurus.

The Carcharodontosaurus
The Carcharodontosaurus | CoreyFord via iStock

Also, the Carcharodontosaurus inhabited a separate region from the Mapusaurus, with fossils found in North Africa, particularly Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.

Mapusaurus inhabited the ancient continent of Gondwana, specifically the region that is now modern-day Argentina.

The discovery of Mapusaurus fossils in the same geological formation as other dinosaur species, such as Argentinosaurus and Giganotosaurus, suggests a rich and diverse ecosystem during the Late Cretaceous period.

The landscape consisted of vast floodplains, meandering rivers, and dense forests, providing an ideal habitat for various dinosaurs.

The evidence of pack-hunting behavior casts doubt on the stereotype of theropods as lone hunters and offers fresh insights into the mechanics of social relationships among dinosaurs.

Furthermore, the cohabitation of predatory dinosaurs like Mapusaurus, Giganotosaurus, and others in the same habitat raises exciting problems regarding resource partitioning and competition for prey.

Interaction with Other Species

Three predatory Mapusaurus with a group of sauropods - CoreyFord via IStock
Three predatory Mapusaurus with a group of sauropods | CoreyFord via iStock

In the ecosystem of Late Cretaceous South America, the Mapusaurus shared its environment with other large carnivores, such as Giganotosaurus and Carnotaurus.

These formidable predators likely competed for resources and territory, leading to complex interactions among the species.

Competition between predators often results in niche differentiation, where each species occupies a specific ecological role to reduce direct competition.

Understanding the dynamics of interspecific competition can provide insights into the adaptations and evolutionary strategies of the Mapusaurus.

While the Mapusaurus was a skilled predator, it likely engaged in scavenging as well.

As a large carnivore, it would have opportunistically fed on carcasses left behind by other predators or the natural demise of herbivorous dinosaurs.

Giganotosaurus 3D render
Mapusaurus was likely no much for Giga.

Carrion consumption not only supplemented the Mapusaurus’ diet during times of scarcity but also influenced the scavenger community by providing a valuable food source for smaller organisms, such as smaller theropods and carrion beetles.

The effect of parasites is considerable in the natural world, and the Mapusaurus was not immune to it.

The bones of this predator may include intestinal worms and other parasites, according to fossil data.

These parasites would have had an impact on the Mapusaurus’ health and well-being, either impairing its digestive tract or compromising its immune system.

The interactions between parasites show how interrelated species are within an ecosystem and how this has an effect on the physiology of apex predators. 

Cultural Significance

The discovery of the Mapusaurus in the early 21st century was a breakthrough in paleontological research. Its fossils, found in the Neuquén Province of Argentina, shed light on the biodiversity and ecological dynamics of the Late Cretaceous period.

Due to its close relations to other theropods, Mapusuarus’ findings have helped experts piece together more information about dinosaur behavior, social dynamics, and evolution.

To preserve and disseminate information about the Mapusaurus, museums and educational institutions are essential.

Mapusaurus on display at a museum
Mapusaurus on display at a museum | Kabacchi via License

Visitors may engage with the cultural significance of the dinosaur via their use of exhibits, interactive displays, and educational activities that bring the prehistoric world to life.

Museums help the general public understand paleontology and encourage more scientists by presenting fossils, reconstructions, and captivating tales.

The Mapusaurus has not only captivated scientists but has also become an icon in popular culture.

Several movies, like “Walking with Dinosaurs” and “Planet Dinosaur,” have featured the Mapusaurus, serving as education to the public and sparking fascination and excitement about the prehistoric world.

Other art forms, like music, painting, sculpturing, literature, etc., have also incorporated the dinosaur in their various art forms.

For instance, artists have created striking illustrations, sculptures, and murals depicting the dinosaur’s appearance and hunting behavior.

Apart from entertainment, these creative works serve as a platform for exploring human connections to the past.

The Mapusaurus has also come to represent cultural identity in the area where its fossils were found.

Argentina, recognized for its extensive paleontological legacy, honors the Mapusaurus as a reminder of its Paleolithic past.

Mapusaurus roseae, a carcharodontosaurid from the Late Cretaceous of Argentina, pencil drawing
One of Argentina’s finest | Nobu Tamura via License

The dinosaur stands for pride in one’s country and a dedication to scientific investigation and adventure.

It has evolved into a symbol for the area, encouraging a sense of kinship with their territory and history.

This dinosaur has cultural importance outside of science and the arts.

People can now actively participate in paleontological research thanks to efforts in public engagement and citizen science.

The knowledge of the Mapusaurus and its ecology may be further explored by enthusiasts through fossil digs, field visits, and open lectures.


The Mapusaurus was a gigantic carnivorous dinosaur that lived approximately 100 to 95 million years ago in modern-day Argentina.

It belonged to the theropod family and was characterized by its impressive size, reaching lengths of over 40 feet and weighing between three and five tons.

Its elongated and narrow skull and possibly excellent vision suggest it was well-equipped for tracking and hunting prey.

This fascinating dinosaur played a significant role in the ancient ecosystems of South America during the Late Cretaceous period.

Its enormous size, powerful jaws, and pack-hunting behavior made it an apex predator of its time.

The dinosaur has also become an icon in popular culture, appearing in movies, art, and literature, and representing cultural identity and pride in Argentina’s paleontological legacy.

Essentially, the discovery and study of the Mapusaurus have contributed to our understanding of dinosaur biology, behavior, and evolution, while also capturing the interest of people worldwide through its cultural significance.


Are there any living descendants or relatives of the Mapusaurus?

No, the Mapusaurus and other dinosaurs went extinct millions of years ago and do not have any direct living descendants.

Birds, however, are considered the descendants of theropod dinosaurs and share some evolutionary traits with dinosaurs like the Mapusaurus.

How big is the Mapusaurus compared to the T rex?

The Mapusaurus and the Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex) were both large carnivorous dinosaurs, but the T. rex was generally larger than the Mapusaurus.

On average, the T. rex was larger in size and weight.

What was the habitat of the Mapusaurus like?

The Mapusaurus lived in an environment characterized by vast floodplains, meandering rivers, and lush vegetation.

The region offered an ideal habitat for diverse organisms, including dinosaurs.


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