January 12, 2022 #ChileDiverse

The most impressive dinosaur-era discoveries in Chile

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Although for a long time it was thought that there were no dinosaurs in Chile, in the last decade four dinosaur species have been described in the country, adding to a series of paleontological findings from that era. This shows not only the relevance that our territory played at that time, but also the importance that scientific development has had in Chile, with researchers unveiling great mysteries for science worldwide. And everything indicates that this has just begun.

Stegouros elengassen: the most recent find, and one of the most important in the history of Chilean paleontology, was the discovery of Stegouros elengassen, which made the cover of Nature magazine in December 2021. Sergio Soto and Alexander Vargas, researchers from the University of Chile, led the identification of this 74-million-year-old specimen (Cretaceous period), discovered in the Magallanes region. This two-meter long armored dinosaur has a very particular characteristic: the end of its tail was shaped like a club.

Arackar licanantay: also in 2021 was announced the Arackar licanantaya species belonging to the group of titanosaurs, herbivorous, quadrupedal, small-headed animals with long necks and tails, some of which became the largest animals that inhabited the planet. This dinosaur was found 75 km south of Copiapó, in the Atacama region, it would measure 6 meters long and would have lived more than 66 million years ago (Cretaceous period). This fossil was found in the 1990s by Chilean geologist Carlos Arévalo. Later, the study of paleontologists David Rubilar (head of paleontology at the National Museum of Natural History), Alexander Vargas and José Iriarte, allowed it to be identified as a new species.

Chilesaurus diegosuarezi: this dinosaur was described and named in 2015, but its discovery dates back a decade earlier, and is registered in the Guinness World Records: its first remains were found in Aysén in 2004 by Diego Suárez (son of geologist Manuel Suárez), then 7 years old, becoming the youngest person in the world to discover fossils of a new dinosaur. It is a theropod, herbivore that was less than two meters long and lived in the Jurassic period, about 145 million years ago.

Atacamatitan chilensis: It was the first non-avian dinosaur described and recognized in Chile. In 2011 the discovery of this new dinosaur species was published, in the Atacama Desert (Antofagasta region), belonging to the Cretaceous period, about 100 million years ago. Its characteristics correspond to herbivorous dinosaurs with long necks and tails, belonging to the titanosaur family, and it would have been about 8 meters long. David Rubilar and Alexander Vargas, from the University of Chile, and Mario Suárez, from the Caldera Paleontological Museum, participated in its discovery.


Other findings:

The largest egg of the dinosaur era: in 2020 the discovery of a fossil that would correspond to a mosasaur (marine reptile), a species that lived more than 66 million years ago in the Antarctic Peninsula, was published in Nature. The egg, measuring almost 30 centimeters, is the second largest in recorded history, and its discovery is one of the Chilean works with the greatest global impact in 2020.

The first Chilean mammal of the dinosaur era: also in 2020, a group of scientists identified the Magallanodon baikashkenke, a new species of mammal that lived 74 million years ago together with large sauropods, such as the titanosaurus, near the Torres del Paine, in the Magallanes region. The finding was made within the framework of the Vertebrate Fossil Record and Evolution Ring Project, led by the University of Chile and involving the National Museum of Natural History and the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH).

Flying dragon: in 2021 researchers from the University of Chile identified a ranforrinco, a type of pterosaur (a species of flying lizard) found for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere, near the city of Calama, and which inhabited in the Jurassic period, about 160 million years ago. It had an elongated tail ending in a diamond-shaped tip and pointed teeth.

A large marine predator in the middle of the desert: a team of researchers from the University of Chile and the Museum of Natural and Cultural History of the Atacama Desert presented the remains of two pliosaur specimens, an oceanic reptile with a bite more powerful than that of the tyrannosaurus rex that inhabited northern Chile some 160 million years ago. The work was published in 2020 in the Journal of South American Earth Sciences.



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