At long last “Jurassic World Dominion” releases in U.S. theaters this week. The film serves as the finale to the “Jurassic World” trilogy. It’s also the culminating conclusion of the entire Jurassic film saga, which started with Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic, “Jurassic Park.”
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment denote that “Dominion” takes place four years after the destruction of Isla Nublar, a remote island off the coast of Costa Rica that was the original home of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World. Now the previously prehistoric dinosaurs have taken dominion in our modern world and are threatening human beings for the top position as apex predators.
Chief among the de-extinct dinosaurs in “Dominion” is the famed Giganotosaurus, which is making its debut in the franchise and appears to be the film’s central dinosaur antagonist. The massive and fierce dinosaur’s Greek name means “giant southern lizard.” It is following the fictionalized Indominus rex and Indoraptor hybrid dinosaurs that were taken down in the two prior “Jurassic World” entries.
This time, however, the enormous dinosaur opposing the heroes derives from actual paleontology history.
Giganotosaurus lived in Argentina about 99.6 to 97 million years ago and is one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs ever discovered. The bipedal theropod grew up to 45 feet long and 12 feet tall. Giganotosaurus could weigh up to eight tons. Tyrannosaurus Rex, for comparison, could grow as large as 40 feet long, 12 feet tall and weigh up to 7.75 tons.
Paleontologists believe Giganotosaurus hunted large, plant-eating dinosaurs, and that it ate about 44 pounds of meat a day. The massive skull of a Giganotosaurus was between five and six feet long. The late Cretaceous dinosaur featured mighty jaws with curved and knife-like eight-inch teeth. Giganotosaurus had three-clawed fingers it used to grapple its prey and sharp claws at the ends of its three long toes.
Giganotosaurus was originally discovered in 1993 in Argentina by amateur fossil hunter, Rubén Carolini. The first field study about Giganotosaurus was led by paleontologists Rodolfo Coria and Leonardo Salgado. In 1995, they named the dinosaur, Giganotosaurus carolinii, as a tribute to Carolini.
Coria and Salgado contributed the pioneering “Nature” research paper, “A new giant carnivorous dinosaur from the Cretaceous of Patagonia,” concerning their findings. The historic discovery yielded that Giganotosaurus was the Southern hemisphere’s largest known theropod. Making major news, Giganotosaurus was described to probably be the world’s biggest predatory dinosaur.
Giganotosaurus joining "Jurassic World Dominion"
Giganotosaurus made its memorable entrance in the film's trailer. While staring in terror, the iconic Dr. Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum), simply questions, "bigger. Why do they always have to go bigger?”
In an interview with Empire, “Jurassic World Dominion” director Colin Trevorrow mentioned that for the Giganotosaurus starring in the film, he wanted to present “something that felt like the Joker.” Trevorrow added, “It just wants to watch the world burn.”
In the prologue for “Jurassic World Dominion,” a fight breaks out between a Giganotosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus Rex with the Giganotosaurus quickly defeating the T.rex.
Though the prologue is reportedly cut from the film, the battle may be a precursor for another clash between the two giant theropods. This is particularly likely considering that the original Tyrannosaurus Rex star from “Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic World” is very much alive in Jurassic canon.
What paleontologists have to say about Giganotosaurus
So, is Giganotosaurus a viable choice for a villain?
“Whether Giganotosaurus was the villain or not is hard to tell considering that villainess is something that concerns to human beings,” said Coria. “I believe big size and weight could be good features in the wilderness.”
Coria is now an Associate Professor and Director of the Paleontology School at the National University of Rio Negro (Viedma, Argentina). He works with the National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina and is Director of Museo Carmen Funes in Plaza Huincul, Neuquén Province, Argentina. In addition to his groundbreaking work with Giganotosaurus, Coria is also renowned for co-describing and naming, Argentinosaurus, one of the largest sauropods to ever live.
Having Giganotosaurus starring in “Jurassic World Dominion” adds special value to Coria. “I think it is supercool and a great privilege,” he said. “Giganotosaurus was always a sexy dinosaur in general culture. It has been featured in many productions, documentary movies and even in the Dinotopia books. I feel honored to have the chance to contribute to all this by just doing my work.”
Coria continued investigating Giganotosaurus after his initial 1995 research. Among others, in 1998, together with paleontologist Jorge Orlando Calvo, Coria unveiled the discovery of a new Giganotosaurus. Its jawbone was eight percent larger than the jawbone of the original Giganotosaurus specimen, supporting the belief that Giganotosaurus was the world’s biggest theropod. In 2003, Coria co-authored research with paleontologist Philip Currie regarding the braincase of Giganotosaurus. But the study didn’t indicate whether or not Giganotosaurus could’ve had more acuity than other dinosaurs.
“Unfortunately, there is only one specimen of Giganotosaurus that preserved the braincase,” said Coria, adding that the Giganotosaurus’ endocast didn’t yield much insight by way of its lobe development. He noted, however, that its olfactory lobes were well developed, suggesting a good smelling sense.
“Of Tyrannosaurus, in contrast, there are several skulls,” Coria continued. “Therefore, it is difficult to make a good comparison of the sizes of the brains. I guess that, in general, both forms had brains of similar size. They are small compared with mammals, of course. But they are normal for dinosaurs of those sizes.”
Fabio Marco Dalla Vecchia is a paleontologist and Research Associate at the Catalan Institute of Paleontology in Sabadell, Catalonia, Spain. He is a former curator of the Paleontological Museum of Monfalcone in Gorizia, Italy, and consultant of the Friulian Museum of Natural History in Udine, Italy. A former professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Dalla Vecchia participated and directed paleontological excavations, field expeditions and surveys in Italy, Romania, Lebanon, Brazil and Iran. He authored many popular paleontology articles and the Blackbirch Press book, “Giganotosaurus.”
Dalla Vecchia said Giganotosaurus was lethal to its prey due to its teeth, claws and robustness. When it comes to Giganotosaurus versus T.rex, he pointed out, “People should understand that the real Giganotosaurus lived only in Argentina. It dominated only Argentina around 95 million years ago. It was a Cretaceous dinosaur. It never met a Tyrannosaurus Rex or any other North American dinosaur.”
Of Giganotosaurus’ hunting behavior, Dalla Vecchia said, “The problem is that we know very few facts about Giganotosaurus' life. We know nothing about its fighting behavior. There are only hypotheses based on scarce evidence. [The] decision is left to the imagination of the movie's writers. Hunting behavior is also based on speculation. There is no decisive evidence supporting Giganotosaurus as a pack or solo hunter. I think it is unlikely that a large dinosaur predator as Giganotosaurus was a pack hunter, but this is just my impression.”
Dalla Vecchia also distinguished that because there’s not yet a complete Giganotosaurus skeleton on record, it can’t be ascertained that Giganotosaurus was larger than Tyrannosaurus Rex. “For the same reason, we cannot know for sure who was faster or more powerful. Hypotheses about speed are conflicting. It is a movie writer’s decision which hypothesis is the best for entertainment purposes. My impression is that T.rex might be, in general, more massive, with a more compact skull.”
In speed terms, paleontologists R. Ernesto Blanco and Gerardo V. Mazzetta authored a 2001 “Acta Palaeontologica Polonica” research paper suggesting that Giganotosaurus could run up to 31.3 miles per hour. That speed would outpace the max 25 miles per hour speed of Tyrannosaurus Rex, which was described in “PLOS ONE” by John R. Hutchinson and other paleontologists.
Giganotosaurus vs. Tyrannosaurus Rex – who wins?
Even though Giganotosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex lived in differing eras and continents, and even though ample paleontological evidence may be lacking, for the sake of discussion, which dinosaur would come out victorious in a fight?
“Both forms are comparable in size and general body,” Coria said. “I foresee a tie for default, unless someone makes a fatal mistake.”
Dalla Vecchia said, “It depends upon the message the film makers want to give to the public. Giganotosaurus is the novelty. T.rex the old. The conversation: who will win? In the real world, I'd give each one a 50 percent chance.”
“Jurassic World Dominion” officially opens in domestic theaters June 10. The film stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill.
© 2022 Jeremy Curtis