Jan 16 (Reuters) – Scientists in Chile’s Patagonia region are unearthing the southernmost dinosaur fossils ever recorded outside Antarctica, including remains of megaraptors that would have dominated the area’s food chain before their mass extinction.
Fossils of megaraptors, a meat-eating dinosaur that inhabited parts of South America during the Cretaceous period about 70 million years ago, were found in sizes up to 10 meters long, according to the Journal of South American Earth Sciences.
“We were missing a piece,” Marcelo Leppe, director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH), told Reuters. “We knew where there were large mammals, there would also be large carnivores, but we hadn’t found them yet.”
The remains, recovered from Chile’s southern tip, Valle del Río de las Chinas in the Magallanes Basin between 2016 and 2020, also include some unusual remains of unenlagia, velociraptor-like dinosaurs that likely lived covered in feathers.
The specimens, according to University of Chile researcher Jared Amudeo, had some characteristics that are not present in their Argentine or Brazilian counterparts.
“It could be a new species, which is very likely, or belong to another family of dinosaurs that are closely related,” he said, adding that more conclusive evidence is needed.
The studies also shed more light on the meteorite impact conditions on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that may have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs around 65 million years ago.
Leppe, from INACH, pointed to a sharp drop in temperatures in present-day Patagonia and waves of intense cold that lasted several thousand years, in contrast to the extremely hot climate that prevailed for much of the Cretaceous period.
“The enormous variation that we are seeing, biological diversity, also responded to very powerful environmental stimuli,” Leppe said.
“This world was already in crisis before (the meteorite) and that is evidenced in the rocks of the Valley of the Río de las Chinas,” he said.
Reporting by Marion Giraldo; Written by Sarah Morland, Edited by Alistair Bell
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