Giganotosaurus is a species of very large theropod dinosaur in the family Carcharodontosauridae, within the allosauroid superfamily. It specifically belongs to the tribe Giganotosaurini, along with the other South American carcharodontosaurs. The type species, Giganotosaurus carolinii, originally lived between 99.6 and 95 million years ago during the Cenomanian age of the late Cretaceous period. Fossilized remains are found in the Candeleros Formation, located in the Neuquén province of Argentina. A fictitious species featured in the Jurassic film franchise is depicted living farther north, possibly in southern North America, at the very end of the Maastrichtian age closer to 66 million years ago; the fictional creature is not given a species name, but Jurassic-Pedia refers to it as Giganotosaurus “ultimus” for the sake of convenience. Its genus name means “giant southern reptile,” referencing its immense size and habitat in South America, while the species name of the real animal honors Rubén D. Carolini, who discovered the first known fossils. The fictional creature’s fan-made species name means “final,” referencing its tenure at the tail end of the Mesozoic era, just before a cataclysmic extinction event wiped its kind from the face of the Earth.
Carolini, its discoverer, was an amateur fossil hunter in 1993 when driving a dune buggy through badlands near the Patagonian village of Villa El Chocón. The animal’s tibia was discovered, and paleontologists were dispatched from the National University of Comahue to recover it for study. At the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology conference in 1994, the discovery was announced by paleontologists Rodolfo Aníbal Coria and Leonardo Salgado, and the announcement caught the attention of American science writer “Dino” Don Lessem. He offered to fund further expeditions to seek out more remains of this mysterious giant theropod of Patagonia. Subsequent research discovered the animal’s skull (heavily damaged and spread out across the area), most of its vertebral column, bones from its pectoral and pelvic girdles, its femora, and the tibia and fibula of its left leg. All together, seventy percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton was recovered, despite its fossilized bones being scattered around the badlands. Well before the remains were assembled it was already clear that this animal was one of the biggest theropods ever discovered, and it was given its name: Giganotosaurus carolinii. Its discoverer Carolini requested that the fossil be put on display at the Ernesto Bachmann Paleontological Museum in the village near where it was found; the museum was inaugurated in 1995 and the fossil was given a centerpiece exhibit, showing it still partly in the ground and surrounded by tools used to excavate its impressive remains.
The size of Giganotosaurus was debated upon its discovery, with some scientists believing it to be the largest theropod known at least in the Southern Hemisphere. Since its skeleton had been found disarticulated and incomplete, as are most fossils, its exact size was unclear. For ninety years Tyrannosaurus rex had been the largest known theropod dinosaur, but the femur of Giganotosaurus was slightly longer at 4.7 feet, hinting that this newfound creature might have been bigger still. Coria and Saldago estimated its skull to be five feet in length, and found that its bones were proportionally more robust, suggesting that it was heavier than a tyrannosaur of similar size. 1996 saw the illumination of its poorly-known close relative, Carcharodontosaurus, which inhabited Africa; now the evolutionary relations of both animals were better understood, as were their general proportions and anatomy. While the title of largest theropod was and still is hotly debated, it is unquestionable that Giganotosaurus and its kin were titans of their world.
Fairly few fossils of this giant carnivore have been found since its initial discovery. The left part of a lower jaw, described in 1998 by Coria and his colleague Jorge Orlando Calvo, was identified as belonging to a Giganotosaurus; it had been found originally by Calvo in 1988, but went unidentified for a decade. While incomplete, this jaw bone was even larger than that of the first named specimen, suggesting an animal with a skull 6.4 feet in length. A partial tooth, originally found in 1987 but not identified until 1999, was also linked with Giganotosaurus, and a fossilized trackway was suggested by Calvo to have been made by this theropod too.
With so few fossils known it is hard to say how big the animal originally grew, but many scientists suspect that Giganotosaurus could have been the largest theropod to have ever lived. Tyrannosaurus was similar in size, but may not have been as heavy, and Spinosaurus was probably longer but certainly more lightweight. A variety of other carcharodontosaurids, too, have contended for this spot; many close relatives of Giganotosaurus are similarly colossal. The only individuals whose size can be measured with any certainty are those which are de-extinct. While DNA from this animal was recovered by International Genetic Technologies sometime before 2009, the dinosaur itself was not cloned; its genetic material was used in hybridization projects by InGen, bringing certain aspects of its genome back to life. It was not until after 2018 that a living Giganotosaurus was cloned by the biotech giant Biosyn Genetics. At least one animal, a male, was bred in Biosyn Genetics Sanctuary, where it reigned as apex predator for some time; this animal grew to exceed fifty feet in length. However, the animal cloned was not Giganotosaurus carolinii, but rather a then-unknown species which lived closer to the end of the Cretaceous and ranged farther north. It is, therefore, the last known surviving carcharodontosaurid prior to the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction. This specimen died in the 2022 Biosyn Valley incident, potentially bringing its species back to extinction.
This is among the very largest theropods, and by some estimates it is the biggest terrestrial carnivore to have ever lived. Fossils suggest that G. carolinii could reach lengths of 39 to 43 feet (12 to 13 meters) and weigh roughly nine US short tons (8.2 metric tons), though weight estimates have ranged from as little as 4.6 US tons (4.2 metric tons) to as much as 15.2 US tons (13.8 metric tons). A specimen of the later Giganotosaurus “ultimus,” a species not known from the fossil record, proved to be very much on the high end of size estimates; a male of this species grew to 50.9 feet (15.5 meters) long, stood 18 feet (5.5 meters) tall and could rear up to 22 feet, and weighed at least 8.95 tons (8.125 metric tons) when fully grown, though some sources suggest weights of up to 11 tons would be possible. While proportionally lighter in weight than the earlier Giganotosaurus carolinii, it can grow considerably larger, even exceeding the genetically-engineered Indominus rex in length by a few inches (this hybrid was projected to reach fifty feet as an adult, though none have yet survived to full adulthood).
Like all carcharodontosaurids, Giganotosaurus is characterized by a very large skull, with fossils measuring 5.0 to 6.4 feet (1.53 to 1.95 meters) long. The jaws are armed with large, serrated teeth, though in G. ultimus they have a more conical shape not unlike a crocodile’s. Another characteristic of G. ultimus is the absence of lips, which most theropods have (though the spinosaurids, which also have crocodile-like conical teeth, typically lack lips). Mature specimens possess about 76 teeth, some of which can be nearly as long as a human head. Its tongue is pinkish and pointed, though unable to extend out of the jaws. The mouth has a wide gape, and its lower jaw ends in a flat square structure that resembles a chin. This is more pronounced in Giganotosaurus carolinii. On the other hand, G. ultimus has much more pronounced set of lacrimal crests; these are ridge-like, grooved rugose projections that rise up from the lacrimal bones and point toward the eyes, somewhat similar to those of its smaller Jurassic relative Allosaurus. These make its already huge skull look bigger when viewed from the side, and give it an intimidating profile when viewed from the front. Unlike many theropods, its skull lacks a sagittal crest; instead its skull roof forms a kind of shelf. The jaw muscles attach to the side of the shelf, rather than atop the sagittal crest like in other theropods. Its bite force is not as great as a tyrannosaur of similar size, but is strongest near the front of its jaw; rather than crushing bone, the jaws of Giganotosaurus are built for delivering a powerful flesh-rending bite.
Though its skull is large, it is lightweight for its size due to the presence of fenestrae, or natural holes, in the bone. All theropods have these, but they are quite noticeable in carcharodontosaurs due to the sheer scale of the head. The eyes in this dinosaur vary: the G. carolinii depicted in Jurassic World: Evolution 2 have rounded bird-like pupils and dark sclerae, but G. ultimus has vertical slit pupils. Such anatomy is more common in ambush hunters that live low to the ground, but slit pupils are also useful in quickly adjusting to variable light conditions and using vertical structures to judge distance, so they may still be of limited utility to a larger predator. It has binocular vision, like most active predators, as well as a good sense of smell. The sclerae of its eyes are bright yellow, and the eyeballs overall are quite large, nearly a foot in diameter. Giganotosaurus has a braincase one inch long and three inches wide; though not very big, this is still larger than that of its relative Carcharodontosaurus.
Prominent bones above its eyes serve as anchor points for the powerful muscles of its neck, which help it to raise its massive head. Its axis bone, which attaches its skull to its spine, is also very strong. In G. ultimus, the spine is lined with tall, triangular keratinous scales beginning on the skull and continuing part of the way down the tail, the tallest ones by far being over the shoulders; these can exceed a foot in height. Those on the skull are also fairly tall. They do not contain any bone, and though they do provide some amount of armor, they are chiefly a display structure that make the dinosaur look larger than it actually is. This serves to intimidate rivals and enemies. Although its arms are longer than those of tyrannosaurs and possess three clawed fingers on each hand, its arms are still not especially strong, and its shoulder girdles are smaller than a tyrannosaur’s. Its body on the whole has a slightly narrower frame than Tyrannosaurus, though not by much.
The legs of Giganotosaurus are powerful and fairly long, ending in huge three-toed feet, each toe bearing a large talon. A fourth innermost toe is a vestigial dewclaw. At a full sprint, Giganotosaurus can attain speeds of thirty miles per hour (48.3 kilometers per hour), making it one of the fastest large theropods; its talons help it gain purchase on the ground when it runs. However, like other animals its size, it cannot run for very long at all due to the strain this puts on its skeleton. It normally moves at a slower pace, putting on a burst of speed when it needs to make an attack. It seldom sprints, as there is little for it to ever run away from, and it can walk faster than many of its prey items can run thanks to its long legs. To counterbalance its upper body while in motion, it has a thick tail, which is fairly flexible and rather heavy. Its tail is sometimes deliberately dragged across the ground when establishing territory, suggesting that it might have pheromone glands in this area of its body.
While Giganotosaurus carolinii has smaller, rounded scales across much of its body, giving it a pebbly appearance, the larger Giganotosaurus ultimus has a wider variety of scale types. On its dorsal side, encompassing the tall spines that line its dorsal ridge, there are large and thick rectangular scales that appear to be defensive in nature. Since this animal was establishing in North America, where tyrannosaurs were the dominant predator, these larger defensive scales may have evolved in response to competition. Oblong ovoid scales, more raised than the rectangular ones, are found in the same region of the body, and the tall scales of its dorsal ridge appear to be derived from these ovoid scales. Round scales cover most of the rest of its body, but its skin stays fairly tight over its muscles except for on its underbelly, where it appears more leathery. It is homeothermic like other theropods, maintaining an internal body temperature. Heat distribution is similar to that of a tyrannosaur.
In terms of coloration, this animal is not extremely vibrant, but has distinct patterning. Much of the body is a dull olive gray-green, but on its face, neck, back, and tail are richer dark green stripes, and the underbelly has a yellowish hue. The dorsal side and tail have the darkest-colored stripes. The ridge of tall scales down its back, however, do not stand out, being the same dark green color; they are not meant to draw attention to themselves, but instead are evolved to expand the body’s outline to make the Giganotosaurus look larger when seen from the side. The game Jurassic World: Evolution also depicts G. carolinii, showing it with a yellowish body color, its lacrimal ridges being bright red and with whitish countershading on its belly. The sequel game shows both the fossil and film versions of the animal, with G. carolinii being grayish-tan with darker brown lacrimal ridges, a brownish saddleback pattern, and yellowish countershading. However, this species has not appeared in the flesh in the film canon directly, only being shown in a Jurassic World mural which used artwork from the Natural History Museum.
Not very much is known about growth patterns in carcharodontosaurs, with Biosyn being so far the only entity to breed these animals in captivity. The only Giganotosaurus specimen thus far bred was kept away from the public eye in a research facility, and no details about its younger stages have yet been released by the company. However, it can be assumed that the display structures such as its lacrimal ridges and tall dorsal scales develop as it matures. The mobile game Jurassic Park: Builder, while long predating the animal’s appearance in S/F canon, depicted the juvenile as fairly similar to the adult, with smaller dorsal spines.
Fossil evidence suggests that Giganotosaurus has a metabolism comparable to a carnivorous mammal roughly an eighth of its own size, therefore allowing it to grow quickly. However, the growth rates of carcharodontosaurs were generally slower than that of Tyrannosaurus, though some South American carcharodontosaurs are estimated to have a lifespan of about fifty years, making them longer-lived than tyrannosaurs. The specimen bred by Biosyn, while not otherwise known from the fossil record, reached adulthood by early 2022 after being bred in 2018 at the earliest; this suggests a four-year maturation rate at most, although large de-extinct animals are frequently given growth-enhancing supplements or modifications in order to yield adults sooner. Therefore, its true maturation rate can only be estimated.
At this point in time only the male has been confirmed, though animals of similar design in non-S/F-canon media are referred to as females. It may be that, similar to some birds such as penguins, male and female Giganotosaurus do not have distinct visual differences and instead identify each other by attributes such as scent or vocalizations.
Giganotosaurus prefers to live near sources of fresh water, such as rivers, lakes, and swamps. It does equally well in forest and grassland environments, though each of these environment types provides a different advantage: forests are ideal for ambushing prey, but open plains are often home to much bigger prey, and resources are otherwise easier to spot at a distance. The slit pupils of G. ultimus suggest that, in the Maastrichtian, it was evolving toward more forested environments, since vertical slit pupils are ideal at judging the location of a target amidst vertical reference points such as tall grass or trees. However, its coloration is still well-suited for camouflage in forests.
Regardless of its environment, water seems to be one of the most important features in its habitat. Giganotosaurus are never found far from fresh water, one of the most vital resources for any animal, and they are at their most territorial in wet environments. Even the fossil formation where its remains were discovered, the Candeleros Formation, shows silt and clay features that suggest the presence of freshwater swampland. However, these swamps were probably temporary, as this region was also within the ancient Kokorkom Desert, where water mainly was found in the form of meandering braided rivers. This may explain why Giganotosaurus tend to be so defensive of water sources, as they evolved for millions of years to recognize water as a precious resource.
There is currently no evidence of Giganotosaurus being bred in the Muertes Archipelago.
Although International Genetic Technologies obtained the ancient DNA of Giganotosaurus (likely the older G. carolinii, though they may have also obtained G. “ultimus“), it does not appear they cloned the animal. Its DNA was maintained in Jurassic World laboratories on Isla Nublar where InGen’s genetic library was stored.
Mantah Corp Island
InGen’s rival Mantah Corporation spent some years building up a facility on Mantah Corp Island, a few hours’ boat cruise from Isla Nublar, and illegally acquired numerous InGen assets and the technology to clone new de-extinct species themselves. However, Giganotosaurus does not appear to be a part of the menagerie held on the island.
Biosyn Genetics Sanctuary
At least one Giganotosaurus ultimus, a male, was bred by Biosyn Genetics and housed in the Biosyn Genetics Sanctuary within the Italian Dolomites. This is the only known de-extinct Giganotosaurus known so far. By early 2022, he was a fully-grown, fifty-foot adult, and controlled the most desirable territory in Biosyn Valley. His competitors included several aging tyrannosaurs; it is not known exactly when the Giganotosaurus was introduced to the valley, but the longer time went on, the more animals were stocked there. It had grown densely populated with too little room for the apex predators to all coexist peacefully, leading to numerous conflicts for territory. Biosyn took no effort to prevent these fights, allowing the overcrowded theropods to brawl. Much of the valley, particularly the central river, southwestern wetland, and the forested area surrounding Research Outpost 04, was dominated by this Giganotosaurus.
During the 2022 Biosyn Valley incident, he and the other dinosaurs were herded into Biosyn headquarters for emergency containment due to a forest fire. He was among the last creatures to enter the facility courtyard on the way to the shelter within the mountains, and upon his entry he found himself forced into close quarters with other theropods. He clashed with one of his major rivals, an old female Tyrannosaurus, as well as a territorial blind Therizinosaurus. With two enemies facing him at once, he was killed. Since he was the only known member of his species alive at the time, his kind may have fallen into extinction once again.
At this time, Giganotosaurus has not yet been reported on the black market. However, despite Biosyn’s efforts to keep this imposing theropod a proprietary asset, its genetic material would be alluring to any smuggler of biological materials, and with Biosyn Valley no longer under Biosyn’s exclusive control as of mid-2022 there are now more chances for this animal to find its way into the dark underworld of illegal de-extinction trade.
Anyone seeking to track down genetic samples or live specimens of this apex predator would be advised to keep an eye on the Amber Clave night market, located in Malta and a major supplier to much of the Eastern Hemisphere. Illicit specimens being traded in the underground anywhere in Europe, Asia, or Africa will inevitably pass through here.
Nearly 97 million years ago, the first species of Giganotosaurus evolved in South America, inhabiting the Kokorkom Desert in what is now Argentinian Patagonia. This theropod, G. carolinii, thrived amidst the small rivers and seasonal swampland of the region, likely preying on the large herbivores that lived in the same environment. An apex predator, its population levels would have been lower than most of the other dinosaurs, since predator biomass in an ecosystem is usually about 10% that of the prey. But, since South America in the Cretaceous was home to some of the most titanic sauropods of all time, healthy population sizes of Giganotosaurus could have survived.
This animal vanishes from the fossil record around 95 million years ago, likely due to environmental changes; it is often difficult to tell what pressures drove species to extinction so far into the past. However, while the carcharodontosaurs were thought to have died out before the end of the Cretaceous, the genetic discovery by either InGen or Biosyn of a new species (called Giganotosaurus “ultimus” in unofficial capacity by Jurassic-Pedia) seems to hint that some persisted later in time. This species is suggested to have lived farther north, possibly even reaching North America where it would have faced stiff competition for resources from the abundant Tyrannosaurus rex. Despite its efforts at survival, the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction would have obliterated their remaining populations, along with nearly all the dinosaurs.
Many millions of years later, genetic material from Giganotosaurus was recovered by International Genetic Technologies. While the animal itself was not cloned using this ancient DNA, some of its genes (particularly those that helped it grow to such a great size) were reawakened by InGen geneticists in a hybridization project, the results of which lived from 2012 to 2015. The animal itself, in the form of Giganotosaurus ultimus, was brought to life some years later by Biosyn. Despite this, there is no current evidence of the animal living in the wild, though the Department of Prehistoric Wildlife maintains a field guide on the genus for public safety purposes. This suggests that although none have ever been reported alive outside Biosyn Valley, the DPW believes that there is a distinct possibility that this animal might live someplace where unsuspecting people could encounter it.
Behavior and Ecology
Giganotosaurus ultimus, at least, appears to be primarily cathermal or nocturnal. It is active intermittently during the daytime, but spends most of its daylight hours resting and only rouses when it needs something. Feeding during the day is usually scavenging more than active hunting, though it will engage in territorial behavior if pressed. At night, though, its behavior changes: it becomes more active and aggressive, and rests infrequently. During the nighttime it will hunt down food and attack live prey, and patrol its territory in search of potential threats rather than just respond to things in its immediate vicinity. In the morning it settles down to rest.
It is not known whether similar behaviors would be seen in Giganotosaurus carolinii (the older species, and the one which exists in real life). Many animals that live in arid environments will rest during the heat of the day and come out at night when it is cooler, but whether the Kokorkom environment was hot enough to encourage this is unclear.
Diet and Feeding Behavior
Giganotosaurus is a carnivore and an apex predator with a strong sense of smell and good vision. The ancestral species, G. carolinii, lived alongside some of the biggest animals ever to live on land, including sauropods that could reach lengths of more than a hundred feet and weigh nearly ninety short tons. Some carcharodontosaurs, including its close relative Mapusaurus, are known to have formed coalitions or worked with their family members to cooperatively mob these gargantuan creatures and even bring them down, using their blunt chins to resist tensile stress upon landing a hit and making good use of their strong jaws to tear through flesh. Unlike tyrannosaurs, the jaws of carcharodontosaurs like Giganotosaurus are designed for speed rather than crushing power; they latch on with dagger-like teeth and rend meat from bone with alarming rapidity, killing small prey in moments and leaving larger victims to bleed out. The front part of the jaws are stronger than the rear, so it would capture prey with its front teeth and then use its hind teeth for ripping and shredding. Unlike tyrannosaurs, which have evolved to contend with armored prey, Giganotosaurus often feeds on animals with dense musculature, so a lacerating bite is more efficient than a bone-crushing one.
While Giganotosaurus carolinii likely preyed on juvenile sauropods and sometimes teamed up to bring down adults, the younger species G. ultimus (which exists only in fiction) seems better adapted to smaller prey. It lacks the prominent chin of its ancestor, having a narrower jaw. While its muscles are still powerful, it is specialized further into swift and precise bites, having migrated north where there were fewer sauropods but abundant hadrosaurs. All the same, in the modern day it is hardly picky about its diet; it chiefly hunts by ambush, sneaking up on its prey from the cover of a forest and then putting on a burst of speed to grab and wound or kill its victim before the prey can escape. Giganotosaurus is durable thanks to its size, so it can stand and fight if it happens to target a more tenacious food source. It mainly hunts in the early hours of the night, and like many predators it might also hunt at dawn. As the ambient light increases or decreases, animals must adjust their vision, which can leave them vulnerable to predators like Giganotosaurus that can acclimate faster. Its slit pupils would be of use here, as they can expand or contract rapidly to accommodate for the changing light conditions.
It is not just a predator of megafauna, but has been known to regularly target human-sized creatures and even large insects such as hybrid locusts. In captivity, it has been sustained on a diet of Central European red deer, and it will scavenge as well as hunt.
For the most part, Giganotosaurus appears to be a solitary creature, befitting an animal its size. It needs huge amounts of food to sustain itself, and generally it is unwilling to share with potential competitors, even of its own kind. While it does have display features, they do not seem to be social in nature; the tall scales on its dorsal ridge make it look larger than it really is, which would help it intimidate rivals. Its coloration is mostly subdued, better suited for camouflage in woodland than showing off to its own species.
However, there is evidence that this animal might sometimes willingly come into close quarters with members of its own species: ancestrally it preyed upon sauropods, the largest animals ever to walk on land. But these behemoth herbivores were far too large for a single Giganotosaurus to bring down without extreme risk of death; a single well-placed stomp could end the life of any predator in an instant. Instead, fossil evidence suggests that some carcharodontosaurs would form coalitions with other members of their species, or work together with family members to hunt. By collaborating, even if temporarily, they could deliver numerous slicing bites deep into the muscle of their prey while reducing the risk to each individual theropod in the battle. Eventually, through persistence, the coalition could weaken their titanic opponents through blood loss, rendering them vulnerable. This behavior has not yet been seen in the modern day, since the population of de-extinct Giganotosaurus has not been known to leave the single digits since they were brought back to life. Should enough of these animals and their mighty prey one day walk the earth again, we just may bear witness to this breathtaking and harrowing spectacle.
It has some social behavior in the game Jurassic World: Evolution 2, in which Giganotosaurus will socialize using head gestures and will mimic each other’s movements to demonstrate mutual understanding. Members of the two different species both socialize in the same ways.
As a general rule, dinosaurs are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs to reproduce. Theropod eggs on the whole are ovular in shape, which ensures they can be laid in a nest without any worry of rolling away. So far, no Giganotosaurus eggs have yet been observed, so specifics about them cannot be determined. Its courtship process is unknown but may involve cues that play to the dinosaur’s strongest senses, vision and smell. One can imagine a male with more visible display features such as ridges and dorsal spines being more attractive to a female, since he would have greater capacity to intimidate a foe.
Larger dinosaurs typically have longer incubation periods since their eggs are usually bigger and therefore take longer for the embryo to develop, sometimes lasting a few months in big theropods. As a very large dinosaur, Giganotosaurus must nest on the ground, and it likely uses its great physical strength and intimidating presence to defend against egg-eating predators. It is not known how many eggs it lays, or what the infant mortality rate is like.
Many species of dinosaur mate for life, or at least maintain long-term pair bonds. This is especially common among theropods, but the standard for carcharodontosaurian families is not well understood. Fossil evidence suggests that carcharodontosaurs of different age groups might band together to bring down especially large prey, possibly indicating family groups. If this is the case, then younger Giganotosaurus might learn hunting tactics from adults.
Since this dinosaur has never been raised in groups in captivity, and wild populations became extinct many millions of years ago, not much is known about how it communicates with its own kind. However, a decent amount of observation has been made regarding how it communicates with other species, particularly territorial rivals. As such a big animal, it needs to maintain a large territory in order to ensure it has access to all the resources it requires for survival, and so much of its communication is confrontational in nature. It uses various loud bellows, similar to an alligator’s, to warn away rivals and assert its dominance, these vocalizations being intermixed with low-pitched whinnies and throaty growls.
Along with vocalization, body language is significant to this dinosaur. When confronting an enemy, it will turn its body to the side, showing off its tall dorsal scales and enhancing its intimidating profile. As with many theropods, it will also gape its jaw at enemies, showing off the sheer size of its mouth and the numerous lethal teeth that line it. When confronting territorial rivals and establishing dominance, it will often strike the ground with its heavy tail, or drag the tail along the dirt. This makes a distinct noise and shows off the theropod’s muscles, though it is also possible that, like some reptiles and birds, pheromones are released during these displays which mark its territory using scent and other chemical signals. This is so far unconfirmed.
When it is not aggressive, it will solicit small scavengers to clean bits of meat from its teeth. To do so, it will lie down, a position in which it already finds itself for much of the day, and open its mouth (not so wide as to be a jaw gape, which is a sign of aggression, and keeping its lower jaw on or near the ground). It may emit small rumbles or gently thump its tail to communicate. If it needs any attendant scavengers to move away, for example when it needs to get up, it uses a slightly louder grumble and lifts its head slowly, ensuring that it does not crush its smaller companions.
An apex predator, the Giganotosaurus is a key component of its ecosystem in that it regulates prey populations, which would otherwise strip the land of greenery if left unchecked. If it does indeed have the capacity to cooperate like other carcharodontosaurs, then this animal is an absolute apex predator, capable of bringing down even the very largest animals in its environment through teamwork and persistence. Even the largest tyrannosaurs struggle hunting sauropods, whose gargantuan bulk alone presents a real challenge. While no easy task, a group of Giganotosaurus could chip away at a giant sauropod’s body until blood loss weakened it enough to kill. These theropods are specialized for feeding on muscular prey, their jaws striking and cutting away pieces of flesh. Carcasses of medium-sized to large prey items, anything the Giganotosaurus cannot gulp down in one piece, are a common sight within its territory, and if it stays there a long time the populations of these prey animals will noticeably decrease. Scavengers, on the other hand, will flourish alongside it.
In the modern day, this animal has only been studied alive in Biosyn Valley, with one known individual. Therefore, much of the information we have about its behavior comes from a single specimen under artificial conditions, though Biosyn attempted to give the sanctuary’s creatures as much freedom as possible to follow their natural behavior patterns. Their Giganotosaurus showed a number of scars, suggesting it often tussled with other animals and emerged the victor. It was a dominant animal in much of the valley, with its vocalizations audible for a great distance; it was able to drive back even the powerful Tyrannosaurus rex through a combination of intimidation and its slicing jaws. It also helped that all three of the valley tyrannosaurs were in their thirties at that time, veritable senior citizens in theropod terms, while the Giganotosaurus was a sprightly youth still in its single-digit years. Despite this advantage, all of its interactions with the tyrannosaurs were non-lethal; it chose to drive them out of its territory rather than risk serious injury in a heavy fight. If its rivals did not leave, it would simply bully them away from food sources until they starved. It is believed that fights to the death are fairly uncommon, and usually brought on by atypical circumstances such as high stress.
However, the animal was not aggressive toward all the species it lived alongside. It tolerated the presence of a Therizinosaurus, a herbivorous theropod of similar size which inhabited the same territory. In fact, the therizinosaur’s presence even had some advantages. It was also aggressively territorial, and did not tolerate rival herbivores feeding upon its favored plants. Observers have witnessed Therizinosaurus fatally attacking perceived rivals, which the Giganotosaurus could scavenge at its leisure. Aside from fish, the Therizinosaurus does not eat meat, so the Giganotosaurus was not a competitor for food. These two giant theropods were able to coexist so long as they kept a respectable distance from each other. It also had an amicable relationship with the small tyrannosaur Moros intrepidus, which were often seen nearby; the Giganotosaurus would encourage them to clean scraps of food from between its teeth while it was resting. This benefited both animals in a mutually symbiotic relationship; the Moros got an easy meal and protection from predators, while the Giganotosaurus ensured that its mouth’s microbiome did not become host to potentially hazardous pathogens since meat was cleared from its jaws before decomposing. The Moros may also have fed upon pests and parasites.
A curious example of indirect competition comes from Dilophosaurus, a smaller theropod that inhabited overlapping territory with Giganotosaurus in Biosyn Valley. These animals were also carnivores and fed upon medium-sized or small prey, including some overlap with animals the Giganotosaurus might eat. Additionally, both species are active at night, and so probably hunted at the same time. There are a few key differences: the Dilophosaurus are venomous, and lingering toxins in their victims might be hazardous to a Giganotosaurus, so it may not have been able to safely steal their food or attack them directly. Of course, the massive size of Giganotosaurus meant it could crush a Dilophosaurus without much issue, so it would be very unwise for the smaller theropods to challenge it. Instead, these two predator species seem to have avoided each other, the crafty Dilophosaurus fleeing and concealing themselves when their bigger neighbor was around, and the Giganotosaurus emitting warning calls to scare away these nomadic pests but otherwise not bothering them. Another medium-sized carnivore that lived nearby was Dimetrodon, but these creatures preferred to spend the night in caves where the Giganotosaurus could not reach.
Some herbivores that lived in its territory included potential prey, such as Iguanodon and Parasaurolophus, while the armored dinosaurs were more hazard than potential meal: such creatures included Ankylosaurus, Triceratops, Sinoceratops, and Nasutoceratops. Huge sauropods including Dreadnoughtus and Brachiosaurus were also known from its part of the valley, frequently lounging in the lakes, but just one single Giganotosaurus would be outmatched against such foes, so it probably did not attack them. Also living nearby were the pterosaurs Pteranodon and Quetzalcoatlus; while the former was small enough to eat and the latter was big enough to be a threat, it has not been reported interacting with them. It existed alongside a number of other animals as well, including the Central European red deer (Cervus elaphus hippelaphus), which it frequently consumed. This animal was big enough to be a suitable food source, and not so large that it could injure the dinosaur when it was hunted, so Biosyn deliberately stocked the valley with these mammals. It also may feed on particularly large insects, such as the artificially-engineered hybrid locust; it is unclear if it fed upon similar orthopterans in prehistory.
Its microbiome is not well known, though it is surely affected by numerous types of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. The game Jurassic World: Evolution depicts it as particularly susceptible to the rabies virus (Rabies lyssavirus), though in real life this virus only affects mammals. The game posits that the genetic engineering process has created a kind of biological loophole which makes de-extinct dinosaurs vulnerable to the disease.
The environments inhabited by Giganotosaurus have changed over time, from seasonal wetlands and windy plains to thick forests, and so the ecological makeup of this dinosaur’s world varies throughout history. Its paleoenvironment was home to relatives of the modern-day dogbane and dragon tree, as well as many kinds of insects and birds; mosquitoes in particular are known to have fed upon its blood, as this is how InGen and Biosyn likely obtained its DNA as the gravid insects sometimes became entrapped in the sap of the local trees and became fossilized as amber inclusions. Generally, it is believed that the ecological relationships seen in modern cloned Giganotosaurus are similar to those it displayed in the ancient past.
Since its discovery in 1993 and eventual naming in 1995, this dinosaur has represented in pop culture exactly what its name implies: the very idea of the word gigantic, a predator whose physical scale must be seen to be truly understood. Speculation arose almost immediately upon its introduction to the paleontological community that it might be the largest theropod ever known, either by length and height or by mass; while it is safe to say that it at least equals Tyrannosaurus in dimensions, the phrase “bigger than T. rex” is still almost universally associated with this theropod among enthusiasts. It shares this distinction with the similarly huge Spinosaurus, but it is heavier, and so may outclass the spinosaur depending on what metric is used to determine which theropod gets to wear the crown.
As one of the most famous South American dinosaurs, Giganotosaurus has also come to symbolize the prehistory of that part of the world. Fossils are less commonly found in the Southern Hemisphere not because of any inherent rarity, but because the Northern Hemisphere is home to wealthier countries that can heavily invest in science. But what has been found in the south includes awe-inspiring creatures such as this one, giving a glimpse into a world about which paleontologists are still learning.
Since being brought back from extinction, Giganotosaurus is notable as the first giant theropod cloned by Biosyn Genetics, which has risen to the forefront of the genetic science industry since the collapse of InGen Technologies. This makes Giganotosaurus emblematic of Biosyn as a company, at least for the brief period of time between its rise to prominence and the exposure of systemic corruption in its upper echelon. A single male Giganotosaurus was cloned by Biosyn during that time period, and it died mere hours before whistleblowers came forth about Biosyn’s corruption; its death was even a direct result of an attempt by Biosyn executives to cover up evidence of that corruption. In many ways, the life of that Giganotosaurus was fatefully intertwined with Biosyn’s success or failure.
So far this animal has not been kept in traditional captivity, only in the semi-wild conditions of the Biosyn Genetics Sanctuary. A single animal was outfitted with only a neural implant, which was used to restrict it from limited parts of the valley and prevent it from leaving. The implant could theoretically modify the animal’s behavior in any number of ways, but by company policy was only used to herd it when needed, such as directing it toward shelter during emergencies. Even then, it was still allowed a large degree of freedom with regards to its behavior and movement. Biosyn permitted its animals to interact with each other and their environment as they would in the wild, including fighting and killing each other, though to discourage excess deaths of de-extinct animals the carnivores such as Giganotosaurus were supplied with red deer to eat.
To house this animal in a more conventional kind of enclosure, large space and high security measures would be necessary. While adaptable, the Giganotosaurus can become dangerous when stressed, so its enclosure would need to be able to keep it comfortable as well as have measures for keeping its handlers and guests protected. Forests in which to hide, wide open space in which to roam, safe places to rest during the day, and available fresh water would all be necessary, and the company of small scavengers that it enjoys having around would also help keep it satisfied. The kinds of security technologies already tested on other large theropods such as Tyrannosaurus are highly recommended.
Giganotosaurus was a major step forward both for South American paleontology and our understanding of carcharodontosaurs. While the group’s namesake genus Carcharodontosaurus had been described from Africa many decades prior, its fossils were destroyed during World War II, leaving these theropods poorly researched. The discovery of Giganotosaurus in 1993 was the beginning of a series of carcharodontosaur discoveries, demonstrating that these animals had not only lived in Africa but outright flourished in South America during the Cretaceous. The impressive size of the specimens bolstered public interest in paleontology, with news articles sensationally proclaiming Giganotosaurus as the new king of the theropods, ‘dethroning’ Tyrannosaurus. Although these claims are exaggerated for dramatic effect, they helped to direct new funding to scientific research, and as specimens began to be put on display in museums, the public flocked to see them.
There is still some debate on exactly how big and how heavy Giganotosaurus could get, with estimates between forty and fifty feet being common. It is also debated precisely what metric should be used to determine what theropod can rightfully be called the biggest known. Most scientists use weight, rating animals based on how massive they are; Tyrannosaurus, Giganotosaurus, and a number of other carcharodontosaurs contend for this record. However, some people argue that length overall should be the measurement used to determine size, in which case Spinosaurus is likely to hold the title. In any case, it appears that these theropods define the absolute maximum size a bipedal animal can grow on Earth, reaching the biomechanical limits for this kind of creature. Much research has also gone into the biomechanics of this huge creature; since no living animal is quite comparable to it, estimates are based on smaller relatives such as the ostrich. While some paleontologists have long considered Giganotosaurus capable of reaching speeds up to 31 miles per hour (50 kilometers per hour), others believe that its legs were not built to withstand sustained speed and that it could only run in short bursts if at all. Other research has gone into the biomechanics of its feeding, suggesting that its bites were meant to tear rather than crush, since it fed primarily on muscular rather than armored prey.
Since having its genome reconstructed by International Genetic Technologies, further scientific research has been able to go into this animal. InGen geneticists located the genes which controlled the animal’s growth and defined its maximum size, but the animal itself was not cloned until some years later by Biosyn Genetics. Once observed in the flesh, some of the debates about its biomechanics could be more conclusively settled. It could indeed run, but only for a short time, with its sprinting speed reaching 29.8 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour) and its absolute maximum size being just over fifty feet (15.2 meters). This suggested that, as many paleontologists including Dr. Alan Grant had long suspected, it could indeed be rightfully called the largest terrestrial predator ever known.
Curiously, though, this may not actually apply to Giganotosaurus carolinii: the species cloned by Biosyn comes from the Maastrichtian age, not the Cenomanian, and was found farther north, possibly even in North America. This explains some of the physical differences between fossils and the cloned specimen, but also hints that some carcharodontosaurs may have survived until the end of the Mesozoic era and migrated north. Here they would have had different prey items and stiff competition from tyrannosaurs, potentially pushing them to evolve different anatomical features to contend with these challenges. The Biosyn Giganotosaurus is representative of this evolution. As research continues, it is likely to yield more insight into how the last of the carcharodontosaurs evolved.
A single living specimen has been bred so far, and it was killed during the 2022 Biosyn Valley incident, one victim of a wider corporate-caused disaster. Since it has not been introduced to the wild (that we know of), it has thus far avoided significant political controversy, but the cloning of apex predators is always problematic at best. Many people believe that theropods especially should be left in the past, regardless of any benefits they may provide to research in the modern day; others argue that they can be kept safely in containment so long as they are understood, and that by studying a wider range of theropods, we can learn how to better maintain those that already exist.
Giganotosaurus did contribute more significantly to a major incident years prior. The 2015 Isla Nublar incident was directly caused by the escape of an Indominus rex into Jurassic World and a horribly botched attempt to contain the situation without disrupting the park’s income flow, and the Indominus was engineered using genes taken from Giganotosaurus (in particular those regulating its maximum size). While a smaller Indominus would still have been a danger, the size boost contributed to by its carcharodontosaur genes gave it additional brute strength, leading to one more challenge in containing it. Ultimately, the Indominus escape caused the closure of Jurassic World, the downfall of InGen, and many years of genetic engineering ethics debates which continue to this day. In this way, even before Giganotosaurus was cloned at all, it was already adding fuel to the political fire surrounding de-extinction.
Ever since its genome was reconstructed by InGen sometime prior to 2012, the DNA of Giganotosaurus has been an invaluable resource. Long recognized as potentially the largest of theropods, the genes that permitted it to grow so large were quickly identified by InGen scientists, and these were used in their ambitious Indominus rex hybridogenetic project. Although InGen was seeking new ways to impress investors and draw crowds, it was decided that a brand-new species created through genetic engineering would be the way forward rather than just another large theropod, so Giganotosaurus was left in the form of genome samples for years.
The animal itself was finally brought to life not by InGen, but by its longtime rival Biosyn, sometime after 2018. Biosyn was less interested in using gene splicing to create new species and more interested in determining what biopharmaceutical products could be derived from natural species. Prehistoric life, especially those without living descendants, are often sources of totally novel pharmaceutical products which Biosyn and other industry leaders believed could potentially yield treatments and cures for a variety of health conditions. Giganotosaurus was cloned to that end, allowed to live out its life as it would in the wild, and studied for any useful compounds its body might produce. During that time it was never utilized as a park attraction, although such an impressive creature would be a captivating (if expensive) attraction. Sadly, the only known specimen was killed in 2022 due to a botched cover-up attempt by Biosyn CEO Lewis Dodgson, putting a halt to research at least for now.
In the modern day this animal is rare, with no reports of it having been released into the wild and the only confirmed specimen having died in 2022, so it is not likely you will encounter one. Still, there is never any harm in being prepared for it, especially with de-extinction technology in circulation around the world. As with all giant theropods, your best bet for protection is simply to stay as far away from it as possible. Pay attention to your surroundings and any signs of predator activity, and if you believe a Giganotosaurus to be anywhere nearby, immediately leave the area without drawing attention to yourself. Be careful carrying food with you in the wild, particularly meat that it might smell; it is not picky about what kind of animal it puts in its mouth and has a good sense of smell, so it has both the means and motive to find and attack you if you are carrying what it wants. Alert authorities from the Department of Prehistoric Wildlife or your regional or national wildlife agency if you believe there may be Giganotosaurus in your area. You may notice signs of its activity before you see it: if prey animals suddenly begin disappearing, or you find carrion from large animals that your native predators could not have killed, a new apex predator may be living nearby. Abundant scavengers often accompany it, so watch for changes in scavenger behavior, or an influx of new scavenging animals that did not live there before.
Should you actually encounter one, do not run. In short bursts it can move much faster than you, and even a very speedy human will be outpaced in short order. Even at its normal pace, it is still fast enough to catch up to you fairly easily, so you will need to slow it down. Try and place obstacles between you and it, preferably those that are difficult to move and must instead be navigated around. Such a big animal can force its way through most things that are not firmly a part of the terrain, so do not stop until you find real shelter. Choose something very sturdy, such as a building with thick walls and small entrances it cannot fit its head through, or caves that it cannot reach inside. Vehicles are not a good place to hide; it can flip, crush, or tear open all but the most heavily armored ones. It is not easily intimidated by anything as small as a human, so there are few readily available ways to scare it off; your best choice is to wait for it to lose interest. It is most aggressive at night, so if it is dark out, waiting until daybreak may save you. At that point it will tire and go to rest, allowing you to get to safety.
If you have no other choice, you should be prepared to defend yourself with any weapons at your disposal. It is understandable that few hikers carry heavy firearms with them, but even something as simple as a hunting knife could make the difference between life and death. If you find yourself pinned in a tight spot and it is trying to reach you, it will use its head, but the animal’s face includes its most sensitive body parts: its eyes, nose, and mouth. Attack these points, striking soft tissue wherever you can reach, and obviously avoid its teeth. The teeth in the front of the jaw are adapted for snatching prey and therefore are the most dangerous, but any of them can kill. As with most theropods, it has good vision and therefore can be distracted by a sudden bright light. If you happen to have flares on your person, or even a fairly strong flashlight, you may be able to use these to gain a brief advantage. Toss the light away from your escape route, and if there is something that might capture the dinosaur’s interest more than you, throw your light at that. With any luck, its attention will be diverted enough to give you a chance to escape. Do not stop once it is out of sight: it is an ambush hunter, and you may not see its attack coming. Keep moving until you have conclusively left its territory, or at least found a safe place to shelter until it goes away.
Behind the Scenes
Although its first on-screen appearance would not come until 2022’s Jurassic World: Dominion, this popular dinosaur had made a number of appearances in other canons such as video games, having been unearthed the same year Jurassic Park released in theaters and popularized in the ensuing years as scientific research took place. It was actually mentioned on the Jurassic World official website (sadly now decommissioned by Universal Studios) as one of the sources for genes used to engineer the Indominus rex, the animal antagonist of 2015’s Jurassic World. However, its name did not appear in the film.
When the dinosaur was designed for Dominion, it was given physical traits that hearken back to the Indominus, particularly where its head was concerned. This was meant to be a visual callback to Jurassic World, as the same Tyrannosaurus was pitted against both the Indominus and Giganotosaurus in different films. Other anatomical changes were deliberately made in order to help non-scientists in the audience tell the Giganotosaurus and Tyrannosaurus apart. The prologue to Dominion also portrayed the Giganotosaurus as a competitor to Tyrannosaurus during the Cretaceous period, even killing the specific tyrannosaur that would be cloned by InGen millions of years later; in real life, no carcharodontosaurs have been found in the same habitat as tyrannosaurs so late in the Cretaceous period. The filmmakers were actually aware of the anachronism and other errors, contrary to the assumptions of many paleoartists, and chose to keep the errors for storytelling purposes. Despite some fans believing that the misplacement of the Giganotosaurus would actually be addressed in the film by having Alan Grant discover its fossil in Utah, no such scene exists, nor did it ever. The error is simply there to establish the Giganotosaurus as a threat and a rival to the old tyrannosaur. For the particularly persistent whiners, paleontological consultant Steve Brusatte took no issue with the studio fictionalizing prehistory in order to tell a more compelling story.
Both the film’s Giganotosaurus and a version based on paleontological knowledge can be created in the game Jurassic World: Evolution 2, suggesting that they are different species (or at least different lineages of that species). The fossil-accurate design was present in the original game and existed in the sequel before Dominion‘s release, with the film-accurate design being added later as downloadable content.
Biosyn Giganotosaurus – male individual bred for Biosyn Genetics Sanctuary, deceased in 2022
Giganotosaurus Ancestor – specimen which lived during the Maastrichtian age