Bagaraatan: The Small Hunter from the Late Cretaceous

Deep in the arid expanses of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, an intriguing predator roamed over 70 million years ago. This diminutive yet fascinating creature is known as Bagaraatan, a name that translates to “Small Hunter” from its Mongolian roots. This Theropod dinosaur was discovered in the Nemegt Formation and offers a captivating glimpse into the diverse ecosystem of the Late Cretaceous Period.

Bagaraatan, a member of the Tyrannosaurid family, stood apart due to its relatively modest size compared to its more famous relatives. Measuring between 9.8 and 13.0 feet in length and weighing around 110.0 pounds, this predator was a nimble and effective hunter. Its discovery has provided valuable insights into the range of Tyrannosaurid diversity, emphasizing the adaptability and variety of these ancient creatures.

Bagaraatan Key Facts

Meaning of nameSmall Hunter
Type SpeciesBagaraatan ostromi
When it Lived72.1 to 66.0 MYA
PeriodLate Cretaceous
Length9.8 to 13.0 feet
Height1.7 feet
Weight110.0 lbs
MobilityMoved on two legs
First Discovery1970 by Polish-Mongolian Expedition
Described by1996 by Halszka Osmólska
HolotypeZPAL MgD-I/108
Location of first findNemegt Formation, Gobi Desert of Mongolia

Bagaraatan Origins, Taxonomy and Timeline

The name Bagaraatan is derived from the Mongolian words “baɣa,” meaning small, and “araatan,” which translates to a carnivorous animal or beast of prey. This etymology aptly captures the essence of this small yet formidable hunter. Its pronunciation, “Bag-Ah-Rah-Tan,” reflects its linguistic roots and provides an insight into the culture and language of the region where it was discovered.

Bagaraatan: The Small Hunter from the Late Cretaceous . Discover Bagaraatan, the Small Hunter dinosaur from Mongolia's Late Cretaceous Period.

In terms of taxonomy, it belongs to the Theropod group within the Tyrannosaurid family although some sources describe it as a basic Tyrannosauroid​ . The type species is Bagaraatan ostromi. Unlike many of its larger cousins, this dinosaur did not have any known species besides its type species. Its classification highlights its carnivorous diet and bipedal locomotion, common traits among its relatives.

Bagaraatan lived during the Maastrichtian Stage of the Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 72.1 to 66.0 million years ago. This era was characterized by significant geological and climatic changes, which influenced the evolution and adaptation of various dinosaur species. This age range situates it towards the end of the dinosaur era, just before the mass extinction event that wiped out these magnificent creatures.

Discovery & Fossil Evidence

This carnivore was first discovered in 1970 by the Polish Mongolian Expedition in the Nemegt Formation of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. The initial find included several skeletal elements that gave a comprehensive glimpse into the structure of this small predator. These fossils were later described in detail by Halszka Osmólska in 1996, establishing Bagaraatan as a distinct genus.

The holotype specimen, designated ZPAL MgD-I/108, consists of various bones, including parts of the skull, vertebrae, and limbs. The degree of preservation was quite remarkable and allowed paleontologists to piece together a detailed picture of its anatomy. Although no additional specimens have been discovered, the existing fossils offer a valuable window into the life of this intriguing dinosaur.

The Nemegt Formation is known for its rich deposits of Late Cretaceous fossils. It provided an ideal environment for the preservation of dinosaur remains. The region’s sedimentary layers have yielded numerous dinosaur fossils, contributing significantly to our understanding of the diverse fauna that once thrived in this ancient landscape.

Bagaraatan Size and Description

Though small by Theropod standards, this was a well-adapted predator with a range of physical characteristics that suited its lifestyle. Its slender, elongated body was supported by strong, bipedal limbs, making it an agile and efficient hunter.

Short Description of Bagaraatan

It had a sleek and narrow body shape with a head that featured sharp teeth ideal for a carnivorous diet. Its neck was flexible and allowed for a wide range of motion, which was advantageous for capturing prey. The vertebrae were robust to support its lightweight frame while the limbs were strong yet not overly bulky. Its tail, likely used for balance, complemented its bipedal locomotion and helped it maneuver quickly through its environment.

Size and Weight of Type Species

Size of Bagaraatan ostromi compared to human
Paleocolour, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The size varied between 9.8 and 13.0 feet in length with an estimated height of about 1.65 feet at the hips. Weighing around 110.0 pounds, it was a lightweight predator compared to its larger Tyrannosaurid relatives. These measurements place this dinosaur in the mid-sized range among Theropods, emphasizing its role as a nimble hunter rather than a bulky powerhouse. Despite the variance in size estimates, the consensus remains that Bagaraatan was a relatively small yet formidable member of the Theropod group.

The Dinosaur in Detail

Bagaraatan stands out due to its unique blend of characteristics that highlight its adaptability and survival strategies. Its slender build and bipedal locomotion suggest a lifestyle that relied on speed and agility rather than brute strength. This physical profile allowed it to occupy a specific ecological niche by preying on smaller animals and possibly scavenging.

Notable specimens, such as the holotype ZPAL MgD-I/108, have provided crucial insights into its anatomy and behavior. The detailed study of these fossils has revealed a creature well-suited to its environment, with features that reflect its predatory lifestyle. The combination of a flexible neck, strong limbs, and sharp teeth indicates a versatile hunter capable of taking on various challenges in its habitat.

Its adaptability is further emphasized by its coexistence with other formidable predators and herbivores in the Nemegt Formation. This competitive environment required a high degree of specialization and efficiency, traits that Bagaraatan clearly possessed. Its role within this ecosystem underscores the intricate balance of predator-prey relationships during the Late Cretaceous Period.

Interesting Points about Bagaraatan

Bagaraatan in its Natural Habitat

This carnivorous dinosaur thrived in the diverse and rich environment of the Nemegt Formation, characterized by varied climate and geography. This region is now part of the Gobi Desert. In the Cretaceous it featured a mix of river channels, floodplains, and arid areas that supported a wide range of plant and animal life.

As a carnivore, Bagaraatan’s diet likely consisted of smaller dinosaurs, mammals, and possibly carrion. Its agile and bipedal nature enabled it to be an effective hunter capable of quick movements and rapid attacks. The presence of other predators and herbivores suggests a dynamic food web, with this hunter playing a crucial role.

In terms of social behavior, Bagaraatan may have been a solitary hunter similar to many modern carnivores. Its relatively small size compared to other theropods could have influenced its hunting strategies and prey choices. The potential for scavenging also highlights its adaptability in a competitive ecosystem.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

During the Late Cretaceous, Bagaraatan shared its habitat with several other notable Asian dinosaurs, each contributing to the complex ecosystem of the time. 

Tarbosaurus was a much larger relative within the Tyrannosaurid family. It was one of the dominant predators of the region in the Late Cretaceous. With its massive size and formidable bite force, Tarbosaurus likely competed for similar prey, although Bagaraatan’s smaller size may have allowed it to exploit different food sources or engage in scavenging. Velociraptor, another contemporary, was a smaller yet highly agile predator. Known for its speed and intelligence, it may have shared similar hunting grounds with Bagaraatan. Their coexistence suggests a dynamic environment where multiple predators could thrive by targeting different prey or employing distinct hunting strategies.

The herbivorous Protoceratops coexisted with these predators, providing a potential food source. The presence of Protoceratops indicates a rich and diverse vegetation in the region, supporting a variety of herbivores and, consequently, the carnivores that preyed upon them.

The unique dietary habits of Oviraptor added another layer of complexity to this ecosystem. While primarily considered an omnivore, Oviraptor’s presence alongside Bagaraatan and other predators illustrates the diversity of feeding strategies that coexisted in the Nemegt Formation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Bagaraatan mean?

The name translates to “Small Hunter” from Mongolian, reflecting its modest size and predatory nature.

When was this dinosaur discovered?

It was first discovered in 1970 by the Polish Mongolian Expedition in the Gobi Desert.

What was Bagaraatan’s diet?

It was a carnivore, likely preying on smaller dinosaurs and possibly scavenging.

How big was the dinosaur?

It measured between 9.8 and 13.0 feet in length and weighed around 110.0 pounds.

What era did it live in?

Bagaraatan lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 72.1 to 66.0 million years ago.

Where was it found?

The fossils were discovered in the Nemegt Formation, Gobi Desert of Mongolia.


The information in this article is based on various sources, drawing on scientific research, fossil evidence, and expert analysis. The aim is to provide a comprehensive and accurate overview of Bagaraatan. However, please be aware that our understanding of dinosaurs and their world is constantly evolving as new discoveries are made.

This article was last fact checked: Joey Arboleda, 06-06-2024

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