March 24, 2011

Sauropod ‘Missing Link’ Discovered In Argentina

Scientists of the Egidio Feruglio Museum revealed a new type of dinosaur that was discovered in the North Central Province of Chubut "“ the Leonerasaurus Taquetransis. Geologists at the museum, along with a student, made the discovery at a site with fossil remains from the Jurassic period (206-144 million years ago).

Paleontologists believe that these fossils belong to a "missing link" dinosaur species which eventually evolved into the long-necked, long-tailed plant-eaters similar to Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus and Brontomerus, the scientists report in the journal PLoS ONE. These dinosaurs are known as sauropods and were the largest known land creatures to ever walk the earth about 170 million years ago.

Leonerasaurus, measuring at three meters, lived about 10 million years before the sauropods. They may be the connection between smaller prosauropods that existed during the Triassic period (248-205 million years ago) and their larger descendants, the sauropods.

"The importance of this find is that it is a new species. It gives us information on the origin of the sauropods," Diego Pol of the Egidio Feruglio Museum of Paleontology told AFP. He is the co-author of the jarticle announcing the Leonerasaurus discovery.

The new dinosaur is "a very primitive species"¦ that helps us understand the evolutionary tree of the giants that appeared later."

However, the discovery team was not able to find a complete Leonerasaurus. Pol says, "Part of the skull and the tail are missing. But the backbone, the hips, front and back legs are there."

Dinosaur fossil hunters know that Argentina is a prime site for new discoveries. In the 1980s, Argentinosaurus Huinculensis, a giant herbivore that measured more than 40 meters long and lived about 98 million years ago was found, later to be accompanied by the remains of the Giganotosaurus Carolinii in 1993, a T-Rex type creature that is the largest known carnivorous dinosaur ever discovered.

The Leonerasaurus was discovered in the Sierra de Taquetren in 2005, and it took the next two years to excavate and remove the remains. The scientific study was conducted in the MEF's preparation laboratory and the results of its findings were released between 2009 and 2010.


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