Jan 16 (Reuters) – Scientists in Chile’s Patagonia region have unearthed widespread fossils of the southernmost dinosaurs outside Antarctica, including the remains of megaraptors that dominated the area’s food chain before their mass extinction.
Fossils of megaraptors, carnivorous dinosaurs that inhabited parts of South America during the Cretaceous period for some 70 million years, have been found in sizes up to 10 meters long, according to the South American Journal of Earth Sciences.
“We are desperate for cash,” Marcelo Leppe, director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH), told Reuters. “We know where the big mammals were, there were also big carnivores, but we still haven’t found them.”
The remains, recovered from Chile as far south as the Rio de las Chinas in the Magallanes Basin between 2016 and 2020, also include rare remains of unenlagia, a velociraptor-like dinosaur that lived covered in feathers.
The specimens, according to University of Chile researcher Jared Amudeo, had certain characteristics that were not present in the Argentine or Brazilian calculations.
“It could be a new species, which is very likely, or to another family of dinosaurs that are close,” he said, adding that more evidence is needed.
The studies also shed more light on the conditions of the meteorite impact on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that triggered the early extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
INACH Leppe demonstrated a sharp drop in temperatures over present-day Patagonia and intense cold waves lasting up to several thousand years, against a very warm climate prevailing for much of the Cretaceous period.
“The enormous variety that we see, biological diversity, can respond to even the strongest environmental stimuli,” said Leppe.
“This world is already in crisis before (meteorites) and this is evident in the rocks of the Rio de las Chinas Valley,” he said.
Reporting by Marion Giraldo; Sarah Morland, Editing by Alistair Bell.
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