Extensive Jurassic-era fossil site discovered in Patagonia

A massive Jurassic-era fossil site that spans 23,000 square miles (60,000 square kilometers) in southern Argentina and which is home to fossils between 140 and 160 million years old has been officially announced through the publication of a new study in the journal Ameghiniana.

According to AFP and India Times reports, the site was originally discovered in Patagonia four years ago, but its existence is only now being announced by the paleontologists behind the find, who believe that they were able to locate the fossils due to recent erosion in the region.

Geologist Juan Garcia Massini from the Regional Center for Scientific Research and Technology Transfer (CRILAR), who led the team behind the discovery, told AFP that “no other place in the world contains the same amount and diversity of Jurassic fossils.”

Garcia Massini said that the fossils were preserved very quickly – in some cases, less than a day – and Ignacio Escapa of the Egidio Feruglio Paleontology Museum added that the paleontologists were able to discover “a wide range of micro and macro-organisms” at the site, which is located along the Deseado Massif mountain range in Patagonia’s Santa Cruz Province.

Discovery is the latest to shed new light on Jurassic-era creatures

“You can see the landscape as it appeared in the Jurassic – how thermal waters, lakes, and streams as well as plants and other parts of the ecosystem were distributed,” Garcia Massini told the AFP. “You can see how fungi, cyanobacteria and worms moved when they were alive.”

Because the fossils were preserved so quickly, they are in excellent condition, and the research team believes that each rock that they recovered could lead to a new discovery, which means that this fossil site should continue to bear fruit in the weeks and months ahead.

The publication detailing their findings comes just weeks after researchers identified a Jurassic age insect whose habits and physical appearance closely resemble that of a butterfly, but which predated the first members of the superfamily Papilionoidea by about 40 million years in a case of convergent evolution, where two species acquire similar characteristics independently.

The recently-identified creature, whose discover was detailed earlier this month in Proceedings of the Royal Society: B, was identified as an extinct “lacewing” called Oregramma illecebrosa, according to reports published at the time. It was a member of the genus kalligrammatid and is distantly related to modern-day insects such as fishflies, owlflies, and snakeflies.

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Image credit: Thinkstock

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