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Run, definitely run!
Grace shouting to Jake when they encounter a thanator

The thanator (Na'vi name: palulukan meaning "dry mouth bringer of fear") is a carnivorous hexapedal animal native to the forests of Pandora. Although many regions of the moon have yet to be explored, xenobiologists currently believe that it may be the apex land predator on Pandora. Reminiscent of a Terran large felines, or the extinct inostrancevia, this enormous, powerful and ferocious animal is unique in its ability to lord over its territory and strike fear into other largest and fiercest of Pandora's terrestrial carnivores. Even the Na'vi, who are renowned for their courage and skills in hunting, are shaken by the approach of the creature.


Jake and Thanator

A thanator in pursuit of Jake Sully

A lean and agile feline-like creature, the thanator's musculature is pronounced and impressive, providing power for protracted runs and leaps. The speed of its neck and jaw strike is swift. In addition to conventional ripping and tearing, the thanator can also deliver a lethal blow from its thin armored tail. An impact from the tail is strong enough to defend against other thanators. The creature's senses are so highly developed that, depending on atmospheric conditions, it can detect prey up to thirteen kilometers away.


A face view of a thanator

The thanator has ten sensory quills that sprout from sections of armor plating that encircle the rear of its skull. The function of the quills is still a mystery, but it has been hypothesized that they may be tied to an internal mechanism of prey location; possibly echolocation or another sensory pinpointing system. The quills also flare up and produce a more menacing appearance. The plates themselves are cartilaginous in nature.

It also has an armored neck and back, a massive distensible jaw, and twenty-three centimeter long sharp teeth. The thanator has burnished black skin. Its ten external sensory quills are colored bright red and yellow. The upper lip folds back for maximum tooth extension. The Na'vi, who are around 9 to 10 feet (approx. 3 meters) tall, could ride on the back of one of these beasts, making the thanator approximately 20 feet (6 meters) long.

It has six long legs, and two sets of opercula on each side of its neck. When sensing for prey or for threats it can raise its front body and two front legs, standing on its four back limbs as it sniffs the air.


The thanator appears to be a solitary hunter and normally does not stray outside of its territorial range, which is believed to be roughly 300 square kilometers. It appears to hunt mainly at night, although it seems to make exceptions if hungry enough.


The thanator mainly inhabits the jungle floor, though similar species have been observed in subarctic regions.

In Na'vi Culture[]

The Anurai Clan paid great respect to the thanator, and considered it their totem animal. The clan partook in the ritualistic construction of totems to teach unity and trust among its members,[1] and some would even attempt to tame a thanator as a rite of passage.[2]

RDA activities (Feral Project)[]

The Resources Development Administration is known to experiment on thanators. They had a project known as the Feral Project in an attempt to train animals to be vicious killers that could be controlled. They had traumatic surgeries performed on them. Their kuru, their sensitive neural whips, were forcefully removed. This has resulted in them exhibiting erratic behavior, not only severing their connection to Eywa but also with other animals.

Role in the Avatar films[]


Scene From Avatar, Thanator Chase.

Jake Sully, on his first field mission on Pandora as an avatar, was chased through the forest by a thanator, just as the creature scared off a herd of Hammerhead Titanotheres who were territorially threatening him. Jake narrowly escaped from the predator by jumping down a waterfall.

Palulukan & Neytiri

A thanator offers itself to Neytiri

Neytiri managed to bond with a thanator after her banshee mount, Seze, was killed during the great battle between the RDA's SecOps and the Na'vi alliance. The Thanator, rather than attacking her, offered itself as her new mount to fight Colonel Quaritch while he drove his AMP suit. Although the thanator stomped and destroyed the AMP suit's gun, Quaritch eventually stabbed it to death with his AMP suit knife, leaving Neytiri trapped under its corpse. Quaritch, yanking his AMP knife from the beast's body, prepared to kill her but stopped when Jake intervened. She was later able to free herself and fatally shot Quaritch with two of her arrows.

A thanator was shown fleeing during the RDA's return to Pandora in 2168. It is shown getting burned to death by the exhaust flares of the ISV Manifest Destiny.


Feral Thanators also exist in Frontiers of Pandora, but are not necessarily a subspecies even if they have their own entry in the Hunter's Guide.



  • Its human name, thanator, likely comes from the Greek word θάνατος thánatos, meaning "death."
  • The thanator originates from Mother, an unused script James Cameron wrote in the early 80s. They were originally named "skraath", subsequently renamed to "manticore" in the 1995 Project 880 script.[3]
  • The roar of the thanator in the film Avatar is very similar to the T. rex in the film Jurassic Park.
  • The original scriptment by James Cameron mentions that the thanator could easily defeat a T. rex and eat the Alien Queen for breakfast.
  • The comparison between the thanator and T. rex seems to be a recurring theme: in Avatar: The Game, another character says it's "about as cuddly as a T. rex."
  • In The Art of Avatar, by Lisa Fitzgerald, the thanator is referred to as James Cameron's "baby" because he produced the original sketches and color schemes for the thanator.
  • In a deleted scene (Neytiri Kills Wainfleet) from the Extended Collector's Edition, Neytiri's thanator pulls Lyle Wainfleet out of his AMP suit and crushes him.


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