Near the beginning of the movie, when Jake is first exploring the forest, he is chased by a black, oily, almost panther-like creature.

In the night after he escapes that, he faces off against a pack of creatures that seem like smaller versions of the big one.

Are they just related species, or are they younger members of the same species?

2 Answers 2


Jake is initially attacked by a Thanator.

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A guttural SNARL behind him. Jake spins in time to see -- THREE TONS of rippling thanator LAUNCH over him, landing between him and the hammerhead. The ground shakes.

Avatar: Original Screenplay

Later he is attacked by some Viperwolves.

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Jake’s got a new problem. He sees shapes moving with liquid grace in the NIGHT shadows behind him. He is being stalked by a pack of VIPERWOLVES.

Avatar: Original Screenplay

The Pandorapedia suggests that the two creatures may be distantly related.

Given its anatomy, it is likely that thanator is [an] evolutionary relative to the viperwolf.


Thanathors and Viperwolves not the same species.

The phrasing on the Viperwolves page on Pandorapedia (the "official field guide") seems to indicate Thanators and Viperwolves are different species:

Their keen, intelligent green eyes can see as clearly at night as in the day. Their long distance vision is only moderate, but their depth perception is superb. Their sense of smell is second to only the thanator (based on the few creatures who have been measured to date). It is believed that a viperwolf can sense prey from more than eight kilometers away.

Furthermore, the Thanator page states they (appear to) hunt alone, while Viperwolves were acting as a pack:

The thanator appears to hunt alone and normally does not stray outside of its territory, which is believed to be roughly 300 square kilometers. It appears to hunt mainly at night, although seems to make an exception if hungry enough.
 Surprisingly, the thanator has ten sensory quills, two each sprouting from armor plating that encircles the rear of the skull. The function of the quills is poorly understood, but it has been hypothesized that they may be tied to an internal mechanism of prey location.

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