Jan 16 (Reuters) – Scientists in the Patagonia region of Chile are unearthing the southernmost dinosaur fossils recorded outside of Antarctica, including remains of megaraptors that would have dominated the region’s food chain before their mass extinction.
Fossils of megaraptors, a carnivorous dinosaur that inhabited parts of South America during the Cretaceous Period about 70 million years ago, have been found measuring 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 be large carnivores, but we hadn’t found them yet.”
The remains, recovered between 2016 and 2020 from the Rio de las China valley in southern Chile’s Magallanes Basin, also include some unusual remains of unenlagia, velociraptor-like dinosaurs that likely lived covered in feathers.
According to Jared Amudeo, a University of Chile researcher, the specimens had some features not found in Argentine or Brazilian counterparts.
“It could be a new species, which is very likely, or belong to a different family of dinosaurs that are closely related,” he said, adding that more conclusive evidence is needed.
The studies also shed more light on the conditions of the meteorite impact on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that may have triggered the dinosaur extinction some 65 million years ago.
INACH’s Leppe pointed to a sharp drop in temperature over present-day Patagonia and waves of intense cold lasting up to several thousand years, in contrast to the extremely warm climate that prevailed during much of the Cretaceous.
“The tremendous variation that we see, the biological diversity, also responded to very strong environmental cues,” Leppe said.
“This world was in crisis before (before the meteorite) and this is evidenced in the rocks of the Rio de las Chinas Valley,” he said.
Reporting by Marion Giraldo; Writing by Sarah Morland, Editing by Alistair Bell
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Policy.