(Reuters) – Scientists in Chile’s Patagonia region have discovered fossils of the southernmost dinosaurs recorded outside Antarctica, including the fossilized remains of giants that would have dominated the region’s food chain before their mass extinction.
Fossils of Megaraptor, a carnivorous dinosaur that lived in parts of South America during the Cretaceous period about 70 million years ago, have been found to measure sizes up to 10 meters, according to the South American Journal of Geosciences.
“We have lost a piece,” Marcelo Lippi, director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute, told Reuters. “We knew where large mammals are, there will also be large carnivores, but we haven’t found them yet.”
The remains, recovered from Chile’s southernmost Rio de las Chinas valley in the Magallanes Basin between 2016 and 2020, also include some unusual remains of a Velociraptor-like dinosaur that likely lived covered in feathers.
The samples, according to University of Chile researcher Jared Amodio, have some characteristics not found in their Argentine or Brazilian counterparts.
“It could be a new species, which is very likely, or it belonged to another closely related family of dinosaurs,” he said, adding that more conclusive evidence was needed.
The studies also shed more light on the conditions of the meteorite impact on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that may have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.
Leppe of INACH noted sharp drops in temperatures over present-day Patagonia and waves of intense cold that lasted for several thousand years, in contrast to the extremely hot climate that prevailed for most of the Cretaceous period.
“The enormous diversity that we’re seeing, the biodiversity, was also responding to very strong environmental stimuli,” Libby said.
“This world was already in crisis before (the meteorite), and this is evident in the rocks of the Rio de las Valley, China,” he said.
(Reporting by Marion Giraldo) Writing by Sarah Moreland, Editing by Alistair Bell
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